Lead academic Dr Diego Gomez introducing the 2017 Climate Change Challenge

Lead academic: Professor Peter Cox (Climate Systems Dynamics)
Lead academic: Dr Diego Gomez (Engineering)

Climate Change: Mitigation, Adaptation or Geo-Engineering?


This is an exciting and thought-provoking challenge, exploring technological and societal challenges, and environmental impacts and implications associated with global climate change.

It is widely accepted amongst scientists that climate change is occurring. 2016 was the warmest year globally, and the last three years have been the hottest temperatures on record. People around the world are at risk of the consequences of climate change, including sea level rise, droughts, floods and extreme weather events. This could have a knock on effect in areas such as food and water security, health and poverty.

Within this challenge, you will work with students from other disciplines in small groups, taking an introductory look at policy and technological solutions available for climate change, with mentoring and feedback from some of the University of Exeter’s notable researchers. You will come up with your own student-led project, which is both creative and scientific, addressing an area of climate change. This could include, but is not limited to, raising education and awareness of climate change, making an impact on climate change locally, or looking at what can be done on a global level to minimise the negative effects of climate change. 

You will also have the opportunity to hear from a range of external experts, including climate scientists, and world-leading academics.

In 2017, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change authors participated in two events as part of Grand Challenges. The first was a networking lunch, giving students the opportunity to interact with and ask questions to these world leading climate scientists. The second was an evening public event, where members of the public and an expert panel discussed the 1.5 degree target with climate scientists. Students also attended talks by Leo Hickman (Director of Carbon Brief) and experts from the University and the Met Office.

Students took inspiration from these talks when working on their group projects. Each group was set a unique challenge such as creating a video to ‘debunk’ climate change myths and trying to make it go viral, or deciding how $100 billion could best be spent to tackle climate change. One group was tasked with creating an app to engage and educate primary school children on climate change. As part of this, the students visited Bickleigh Primary School to carry out market research, and pitched their final ideas to the school children towards the end of the week. Some students also worked with local organisation Exeter City Futures, who are aiming to make Exeter energy independent by 2025, and they came up with ideas that could support this aim.

Students created outputs as part of their projects, and these included videos, posters and app prototypes. On Friday morning, they presented their work to an expert panel and other students on their Challenge. They then showcased it later in the day at an exhibition in the Forum, which was attended by students from all Challenges, University staff and members of the general public.  

The timetable for the 2017 Challenge shows how the week was structured.

Student Outputs

These are the outputs that students on the 2017 Challenge produced.

Enquiry groups

Enquiry groups are the subtopic of the challenge that students focus on for Grand Challenges Week. These are the enquiry groups that ran in 2017. 

Led by Dr Hywel Williams, students will design an educational app to engage primary school children with climate change. Children will help the group define the brief and judge the success of the app!  

What is the best way to build the resilience of communities to the impacts of climate change? How do we ensure the growing population gets enough water, energy and food to thrive in the changing climate? Students in 2016 worked with Dr Diego Gomez.

Debunking myths surrounding climate change. Can you identify the truth and communicate it clearly and engagingly? Students will present this information in a variety of ways. Some students will design a climate change communication campaign that will go 'go viral' on Facebook or Twitter. This group will work with Dr Anna Harper, and will have an opportunity to interact with climate change experts contributing to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 

Can we spend our way out of the problem? If Bill Gates gave you $100 Billion to fix the climate, how would you spend it?

Working with Exeter City Futures and using the data available in the Energy Independence 2025 Report, students will develop a model which will allow a typical family to determine the changes they would need to make to become energy independent by 2025. This enquiry group is unique in that it has the potential to create a tangible legacy. Exeter City Futures can fulfil an output’s potential and see it through until the end by making it an active project. Students will work with Kerry Deacon and Gosbert Chagula.

Photos from Grand Challenges 2017