Skip to main content
Get involved
Lead academic: Professor Juliet Osborne (Biology)
Lead academic: Professor Dave Hodgson (Biosciences)
UN Sustainable Development Goal
UN Sustainable Development Goal
UN Sustainable Development Goal
UN Sustainable Development Goal
UN Sustainable Development Goal
UN Sustainable Development Goal

Climate and Environment Futures: Penryn Challenge

Climate and Environment Futures

COVID-19 update

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Grand Challenges is not able to go ahead in its usual face to face format, and is instead running as a similar online programme called Challenges Online. The inaugural Challenges Online ran in June 2020 and Challenges Online 2021 will run between 7th-11th June 2021. Please go to the Challenges Online website for more information.

Challenge overview

How do we change climate change?  And what does the future look like?  In this Grand Challenge on the Penryn campus, students and staff will come together to  imagine, invent and inspire the change we need to save the planet from environmental and climate crisis.  Your group might want to focus how we find solutions, how we live, how we make money, how we make communities resilient… or how we tell the story and learn from our past.  The important thing is to explore, as creatively as possible, what these changes will mean to our everyday life and our environment in future decades, and how we can prepare for that future. Utopia or Dystopia? You decide.

During the week, you will hear from some keynote speakers, spend time researching your chosen topic and imagining what life will look like under your chosen scenario.  Your group will produce a creative output to share your vision with all participants at the end of the week – this could be a presentation, a video, piece of music, a social media campaign, or whatever you decide best conveys your message.

This Challenge is only available to Cornwall based students. For Exeter based students interested in this theme, then please see the Climate Emergency Challenge.

University of Exeter Cornwall students can sign-up by clicking here. This Challenge is available to both undergraduate and postgraduate students in Cornwall.                   

Falmouth University students can sign-up by emailing with why they'd like to sign up and their order of preference for the six enquiry groups.


Enquiry groups

Enquiry groups are the subtopic of the challenge that students focus on for Grand Challenges Week. These are the enquiry groups that are running in 2020.

Our ever increasing appetite for stuff is arguably largely to blame for our overall energy consumption and the impact on the environment from mining and manufacturing the materials. Going forward though, can all this be managed in a very different way to ensure we all continue to benefit from modern technology but without the impact on the environment. Can mining activities be powered by clean energy? Can products be designed to be easily recycled or reused in different ways? Can the energy these devices use be cut dramatically? Can technology be used to highlight the energy or environmental impact of our daily lives?

Climate change is necessitating a change of lifestyle and culture for everyone on the planet: not only to reduce carbon emissions and reduce our negative impact on the environment, but also to actually live with the changes already occurring.  In this group you will consider what changes of culture or social norms are required, and imagine what future lifestyles will look like – in Cornwall, in the UK, or around the world.

Anthropogenic climate change is the storyline of our time. It compels us to ask questions about where we have come from, and where we may be going. It asks us to imagine not only how stories (such as the human story) end, but also where those stories began, how they unravelled as they did, and what power we may have to change the tales that are told. The idea of climate change relies on the power of stories. When we are afraid for the future it is because of plots with apocalyptic climaxes. When we imagine, and tell, hopeful stories we remake the future. This enquiry group will explore the storying of anthropogenic climate change, including the historical, scientific, journalistic and fictional stories we tell about it, and it will offer a chance to explore how storytelling – in any form - can offer a powerful way for us to take back control of our future.

In this time of change it is vital that we all understand the ‘currency’ of carbon, and our environmental footprints.  How can the understanding of carbon budgets affect the way we work, live and make money? Does a business have to re-invent itself to be net carbon zero, and still make money? In this enquiry group you will explore the way in which business, and perhaps our University, function through the lens of carbon emissions.  And consider how best to make the most significant changes to carbon emissions – and what this might cost.

The way in which we use land has a massive impact both on the environment itself, and also on carbon emissions. What will future landscapes look like if we aim to reduce the impact on the environment, and reduce carbon emissions to net zero – whilst also producing safe and nutritious food to feed a growing population?  In this group you will consider future scenarios of land use and what the trade-offs might be in choosing to use land differently.  You can choose whether your exploration has a regional focus in Cornwall, or a global focus.

To change climate change – we need to educate the leaders of the future with a fundamental understanding of climate and the environment.  But education also has its own environmental and social impact.  In this enquiry group you will consider what future education will look like and how it should be done. In a globalised society – what will reductions in international travel mean for education? Or how might the University respond in particular to make sure we are part of the solution to climate change, rather than part of the problem?