Warwick Climate Forum 2015

Organised annually for the past four years by an environmentally concious team of Warwick students, the Hub’s Climate Forumaims to offer a platform of debate, to enrich understanding of climate change as well as to prompt action”. Following on from previous years’ focus on topics such as the role of technology on CC in 2012, or last year’s focus on Market Solutions, this year saw the forum take on a subtly more imposing title of ‘It’s Our Future, Not Theirs’ . Last Saturday, for the first time I attended the WCF – first of many more, I can tell!

“We aim to inspire a generation of students at this critical moment in global history” – WCF

Featuring talks from the likes of Prof. Joanna Haigh (vice-President of RMetS), Neal Lawson (chair of pressure group Compass) and UNEP’s Prof. Jacqueline McGlade, the programme was an inspiring springboard into debate about climate scepticism, economy and of course the science behind our changing climate. Ultimately, underpinning this collection of talks, workshops and panel debates, was the spotlight on the future of our planet.

source: 1010uk.org
Neal Lawson.       source: 1010uk.org

Neal Lawson’s slashing of a consumerist society opened my eyes to the sad truth: the UK is a nation of sheep, all too scared to become a “failed consumer”. With inevitable success, corporations will try to make us want more. Want better. And we will subsequently believe that we need more, despite perhaps not even giving it a thought beforehand. More more more. Of course, if shopping is indeed how a mother connects with her daughter for example, then by all means do spend the whole Saturday in the shopping centre together if that’s what connects them on a personal level. But the vast majority of us celebrate the momentary euphoria of buying a new shirt or laptop or handbag with a worrying significance. Most of us rely on materialistic pleasures that on a deeper level have no meaning. Oh I’m all for expressing our personalities through the things we wear – but what does my blue “made in Thailand” shirt say about me? That I like the colour blue, or that I support companies exploiting child labour for maximum profit?

“Someone once said that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism” – Frederick Jameson.

Perhaps I am straying off topic here, but Neal’s discussion did make me think more about the implications of my (and everyone else’s) seemingly innocent, everyday actions. Other highlights of WCF included a pair of workshops: ‘Art Not Oil’ and ‘Why I Don’t Care About CC’ – the latter of which was delivered by David Saddington and was essentially a “how-to” guide to hugging a climate sceptic. It was like being taught an eloquent way of politely but assertively making a sceptic realise that they are deluded – without explicitly telling them they are deluded. I really enjoyed that; albeit a little “in your face”, the workshop (hopefully) has made me capable of holding a lengthy conversation with a sceptic, without smoke fuming out my ears due to their denial and downright silly argument..

Warwick’s own Prof. Charles Sheppard gave a talk on the euphemisms used by corporations to disguise their negative actions: the balaclava in the form of “borrow pit” or “soil improvement” with regards to land use works wonders on everyone. But Sheppard implied a different meaning to “land reclaim” for example: to mean something along the lines of ‘landfill on habitat’. A brief Google search returns only positive words when these search terms are keyed in, and so I can’t help but wonder about the potential bias from either side: the oil company and the climate activist, both twisting their words to achieve the desired effect. Admittedly, this is something I should research in more scientific depth before I commit to a fully fledged blog post on it!

source: rmets.org
Joanna Haigh         source: rmets.org

Not to miss the scientifically proven facts, RMetS’ Joanna Haigh provided the (quite technical!) basics of science behind CC. Amongst the cold-hard facts, some opinions were also thrown in: Haigh’s disapproval towards a geoengineering solution to tackling CC was clear. I do agree with her distaste towards injecting stratospheric sulfate aerosols up into the sky, as it implied a low-cost but unstustainable “solution” to the problem. Unsurprisingly, money wins once again. Researchers in this field clearly have not taken serious account of the possible negative effects of this system, which is an analogous effect to volcanic eruptions, but “is not perfect because the volcanic aerosol is flushed within a few years, and the climate system does not respond in the same way as it would if the particles were continually replenished, as they would be in a geoengineering effort”. [1] And what about ocean acidification? Ozone depletion and resultant increase in UVB? What happened to actually saving the Earth and not just (literally) masking the problem in a manner unsustainable for a longer period of time? For more info, here is a very interesting publication by the Royal Society.

 

Focussing on the future, IRRI’s Dr. Achim Dobermann talked about the benefit of public-funded research into options such as “climate-proof rice”. Approximately a third of global rice farms are lowland fields in the likes of India or Bangladesh, subject to serious flash flooding and monsoons. 18% of global supplies are in serious risk. Through the method of marker-assisted breeding, researchers have been able to selectively breed the SUB1 gene into rice crops, enabling the crop to survive near to 2-week periods of flooding – a timescale which is normally sufficient to damage the crop  with no hope of a successful harvest. This aims to increase food security mainly in Asia, the main source of the global rice supply. Have a look at the timelapse above and, if you’re interested in more scientific info, read this publication, or sweep around IRRI’s website: http://irri.org/our-impact/increase-food-security/flood-tolerant-rice-saves-farmers-livelihoods

Here is probably where I should end this essay of a post, as much as I would like to ramble on! I am highly anticipating next year’s Warwick Climate Forum’s conference – this should be even more interesting, following the 2015 COP in Paris. Let’s see what this year unveils.

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