+ Facts and figures
Climate Change and Sustainable Futures
We provide world-class interdisciplinary research to address the challenges of climate change, and to inform possible pathways to a sustainable future through mitigation, adaptation and geoengineering.
Climate change and sustainability are likely to be the most significant environmental phenomena of the 21st century and, working closely with the Met Office, we are positioned at the forefront of climate change research.
We have diverse expertise encompassing:
The climate loop shows the stages in managing climate change.
In the last few years the impact of our research in climate and sustainability has grown significantly.
Amazon rainforest and climate change
Our research on the links between the Amazon rainforest and climate change has:
- Influenced international climate policy by stimulating public debate.
- Directly assisted Brazilian environmental policymakers by contributing to science-into-policy documents produced by the World Bank and for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and by direct face-to-face interaction with UK and Brazilian policymakers.
- Received international media coverage including a piece in the New York Times.
Climate Tipping Points – impact on climate policy and risk assessment
The framework for climate change discussion has been changed after our research identified potential climate tipping points and developed early warning methods for them.
The work has which analyses of abrupt, high impact, and uncertain probability events, including estimates of their proximity, has:
- Informed public debate through a dedicated TV series.
- Influenced policy around the world.
- Prompted the insurance and reinsurance industry to reconsider their risk portfolios and take into account tipping point events.
Keeping buildings cool
The CCSF PROMETHEUS project used climate change data to predict future weather conditions across the UK and has led to the future-proofing of building design decisions so new buildings will be cooler.
Exciting methods for investigating how sensitive biosystems are to climate change have been developed through
Rainforests - the lungs of the plant
CCSF theme leader Prof Peter Cox's research into carbon dioxide absorption and production in rainforests has led to a new way of finding out how sensitive biological systems are to changes in climate. The study found that variations in how much carbon dioxide rainforests absorb reveals how vulnerable rainforests are to climate change.
Reducing carbon dioxide emissions
Global warming targets will only be met if carbon dioxide emissions begin to fall within the next two decades and eventually decrease to zero.
Prof Pierre Friedlingstein and his team used mathematical modelling to construct possible future scenarios, based on different assumptions on emissions reduction. They found that zero or negative emissions are compatible with the target if we reduce our global carbon emissions by at least three per cent a year in the next two decades. The study also highlighted how remaining emissions could cause the two-degrees target to be exceeded over the next few hundred years.
Antarctic ice sheets
Whether global warming may cause the giant West Antarctic Ice Sheet to melt and raise sea-levels by several metres is one of the most contested debates in climate science. Our research has shown that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be more stable than thought.
Arctic expedition findings
Findings from our Arctic expedition investigate climate change and the effects of carbon dioxide on the Arctic Ocean are being used to educate hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren about marine science.
Our geoengineering research could prevent damaging droughts in sub-Saharan Africa through careful injection of aerosols into the atmosphere. Results suggest that aerosol injection into the northern hemisphere causes significant drought in the Sahel, while injection into the southern hemisphere causes a significant greening.
Our G360 project is also looking at geoengineering.
Methods for coping with severe weather have been identified following public concerns about the governmental response to related problems. Our research showed that concerns about governmental failure to act effectively and fairly in the aftermath of extreme weather events can affect the degree to which residents are willing to protect themselves.
The cultural impacts of climate change are underestimated, misunderstood and overlooked. Our research has shown cultural experiences such as enjoying beaches, winter sports, visiting natural spaces and even using traditional methods of agriculture and construction, are key to making climate change real to people and motivating their responses.
Centre for Business and Climate Solutions
The University can help South West businesses adopt more sustainable ways of working through the Centre for Business and Climate Solutions, which has received £1million in funding from the European Regional Development Fund.
Our research has shown that coral growth rates can be reduced by lower water temperatures, caused by fine particles released in the air from burning coal and volcanic eruptions.