Watch the video of Peter Cox’s talk at TEDxExeter 2012.
Scroll down the page for biographical information and news.
Video and Live blogging
The TEDx team will staple-gun him if he goes outside the red dot on stage! It’s time to get away from entrenched positions in international negotiations on climate change, but think a bit laterally. He’s giving the conclusions to us already!
The climate is still changing, even though we have stopped talking about it. Global surface temperature has increased by 0.8 degC since 1980, and the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1997. Carbon dioxide has the largest ‘forcing’ effect on the warming of the climate system. The sun’s forcing is tiny in comparison. There are lots of other forcings, which at the moment are cancelling out, but have scary potential.
We can’t pretend the problem doesn’t exist; and we can’t just focus on adapting to climate change. We need to cut carbon emissions now, and by 60% by 2050, and keep cutting, to avoid ‘dangerous’ warming of over 2 degC. Emissions fell in 2009, but just due to economic shrinkage, and they rose again by the most ever in 2011. Geo-engineering, such as reflecting sunlight away from the planet, is thinking too far outside the box. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
If we control methane, we gain benefits for human and ecosystem health, and we have a better chance of controlling overall greenhouse gas emissions. It’s feasible, because we have a good idea of sources of human-caused methane emissions, which are much higher than natural sources. 40% reductions are feasible, by better management of landfill and fuel production and transport, and changes to diet. This is equivalent to over 10 years of carbon emissions, and will give us a bit of time to get our carbon house in order.
Peter Cox is Professor of Climate System Dynamics and leader of the inter-disciplinary “Climate Change and Sustainable Futures” activity at the University of Exeter. His personal research has focussed on interactions between the biosphere and climate, including the first climate projections to include vegetation and the carbon cycle as interactive elements. These simulations demonstrated the potential for the land carbon cycle to provide a very significant acceleration of global warming through loss of soil carbon, and also suggested that the Amazon rainforest could dieback under climate change. Peter Cox is a lead-author on the forthcoming Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and is a member of Science Advisory Group for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, as well as being amongst the most highly-cited authors in climate change research during the last decade.