Solving the climate change problem: mitigation, adaptation or geo-engineering?

Campus: Exeter

The Climate Change Challenge this year was a special one, with several exciting opportunities for the students that signed up. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change authors (IPCC) visited Exeter for a conference, which resulted in two special events for the students. In addition to this, it was the first year where students were posed real-world problems by Exeter City Futures, looking to see how Exeter could become energy independent by 2025. The Climate App group also had a first, as Primary School children provided Grand Challenges students with a brief for a new app on climate change. Linking all of this together led to a very productive week!

Similarly to the other challenges, the week begun with an introductory talk from all of the academics involved. This initial session looked at Climate Change in general, the effect it could have and how important it is to make a change now. Having already picked their enquiry groups prior to the week, it gave the students a chance to think about potential ideas within their topic and to start formulating challenge questions. Following from this talk, the groups got together to meet one another and begin discussing what direction their work was going to take.

On Wednesday, there were three special events. The first was a debate between Professor Peter Cox, Stewart Barr, Jim Haywood, Saffron O’Neill and members of the audience over whether the figure 1.5C is just ‘pie in the sky’. Then, at lunch, there was a cross-challenge lunch with the IPCC authors in the Forum, which allowed the students to network with one another and the experts. For the evening, there was a public panel event with the IPCC authors again, where Grand Challenge students and wider members of the University challenged the authors on all ideas related to climate change. One of the students, when talking about the speakers involved in the week, said: “They are very passionate in their field and that radiates when they did the talk, so it kind of inspires you to learn more about it and do something about the prevalent problems we’re currently facing.” In amongst these engaging sessions, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were the main days for students to work within their groups to create the output for their proposed question.

The Climate App groups were tasked with making an educational yet fun app to engage primary school students on the topic. On the Tuesday of the week, they visited Bickleigh Primary School to explore ideas and get a brief from the students. One of the students who participated, said: “I loved working at Bickleigh School, the children were delightful and the information gathered was great for our group.” Outside of the IPCC panels on Wednesday, the groups then worked to form the basis of their app which would be pitched to the same students on the Thursday. Two groups went head-to-head with the primary school students picking the winner (the vote was 51%-49%!). Both groups received feedback and then edited their app ready for the Showcase on the Friday.

The work split across the other enquiry groups was more broad-ranging. This led to a great diversity of outputs and solutions in the presentations and Friday Showcase. One of the students commented on this, saying that they liked “how we were encouraged to be creative while still being scientific.” Some of the outputs for the Climate Change Challenge varied from a comedy based video on debunking climate myths, a video on the behaviour of bears in Northern Japan, and several apps to engage primary school students in Climate Change. If you’re interested in seeing more, these outputs can be seen on the Output page, or on the sidebar here.

Enquiry groups

Enquiry groups are the subtopic of the challenge that you will focus on during the week:

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.

Flickr gallery from Climate Change 2017