Wednesday 21 June 2017
19:00 – 20:30
Saïd Business School
Book your tickets here
Dr Emily Shuckburgh is a climate scientist and deputy head of the Polar Oceans Team at the British Antarctic Survey, which is focused on understanding the role of the polar oceans in the global climate system. She holds a number of positions at the University of Cambridge (fellow of Darwin College, fellow of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, associate fellow of the Centre for Science and Policy, member of the Cambridge Forum for Sustainability and the Environment, and member of the Faculty of Mathematics).
She is a fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society and co-chair of their Climate Science Communications Group. She has also acted as an adviser to the UK Government on behalf of the Natural Environment Research Council. In 2016 she was awarded an OBE for services to science and the public communication of science.
Emily answers our questions:
What attracted you into the field of sustainability and climate science?
As a child I was fascinated by nature, but I also loved maths and science. In addition, I've always had a strong desire to spend my life doing something that can make a positive difference to the world. I have had the great privilege of being able to combine these passions in my work as a climate scientist.
Which area of science or science policy been a persistent challenge?
From my own perspective the most persistent challenge has been for climate scientists like myself to make our voices heard above the noise of entrenched vested interests and politically driven misinformation. The scientific facts are that our climate is changing and that as humans we are largely responsible for that change. My own research, gathering and studying data from in and around the Arctic and Antarctica leaves me in no doubt about the risks posed by climate change. One of the key motivations for writing the Ladybird book was to open up the findings of climate science to a wide audience so that people can come to their own conclusions about the risks and what we should do about it.
What – about conservation in general or specific responses to your work – has surprised you most over the last few years?
From talking extensively to ordinary people I have realised that the way we as scientists often talk about climate change can make it seem quite distant and abstract. Global increases in temperature are quite difficult to relate to everyday experience. People rightly want to know what it means for the risk of their home being flooded, their health being impacted or cherished wildlife being decimated.
Where do you think you have made the most (positive) impact on the environment?
My research group is focused on the polar oceans. Changes to the circulation and properties of the Southern Ocean around Antarctica are of concern for two primary reasons. The first is that the waters can encroach under Antarctica’s ice sheets and destabilise them, leading to sea level rise. The second is that at present a significant percentage of our emissions of carbon dioxide are soaked up by the Southern Ocean, but that brake on climate change may start to falter in the future. In the Arctic, sea ice is in perilous decline and we are starting to untangle the impact of that on weather patterns across Europe, Asia and North America. Understanding the changes to the polar oceans and the risks they imply for the rest of the world is critically important to inform policy decisions.
What advice would you give to your 20-something self?
Follow your passions with energy & enthusiasm.
What type of destination is your go-to to unwind / go off-grid?
I have two young daughters who are fairly successful in keeping me constantly entertained wherever I am!