Climate, Conversation and Cocktails: ClimateUEA Day 2022



    On Wednesday 6 July 2022 colleagues from across UEA and the Research Park convened at The Enterprise Centre for presentations, discussion, conversation and cocktails as part of the 4th annual ClimateUEA Day. Expert talks showcased the broad range of climate research taking place across the institution, with the aim of stimulating new conversations and interdisciplinary collaborations.

    Prof Konstantinos Chalvatzis, the former ClimateUEA Academic Chair (NBS) posed the following question for the opening session on Climate Data; ‘do we as a community really understand what our reputation for data is and are we making the most of communicating all that we do?’

    Whilst it was widely agreed upon that UEA is known for the strength of its data use around climate and climate change, colleagues felt there was a big opportunity to bring forward and present the breadth of data being processed across the institution, particularly around technology driven observations, which is perceived as a strength. This session marks the beginning of a longer conversation for the community, on how we can work to better map and showcase the important role data plays in our world-leading climate research. 

    Attendees were then presented with outputs from four research projects undertaken earlier in the year courtesy of the NERC Discipline Hopping for Environmental Solutions grant. Prof Joanne Clark (AMA) presented first on her fascinating global project mapping the vulnerability of UNESCO World Heritage Sites from sea-level rise; Dr Jo-Anne Geere (HSC) explored the impact of climate change on water from a multidisciplinary perspective, whilst Dr Elizabeth Lewis-Williams (LDC), standing in for Prof Jean McNeil (LDC), showed how we can harness creative writing to empower conversations on the climate crisis. Finally, Dr Penelope Pickers (ENV) brought together the language of science and the science of language, her project building post-graduate environmental science capability through narrative workshops. These discipline-hopping projects have further highlighted the importance of interdisciplinary research and working to address complex global challenges, as well as raising awareness of the need to develop understanding of different disciplinary language and concepts.

    These last two talks provided an excellent segue into a broader discussion and exploration of the varied nature of Climate Narratives presented by UEA colleagues working across fiction, poetry, performance and film. Through Dr Jos Smith, Dr Christine Cornea (AMA), Dr Rebecca Tillett (AMA), Ms Nayantara Nayar (LDC-PGR) and Mr Logan Scott (AMA-PGR) we encountered multiple types of climate narrative; exploring speculative nature writing, indigenous perspectives, the apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic narrative, eco-systemic writing and theatrical interventions. We heard that artistic and creative practices and approaches can help expand our imaginaries of the future, and of the capacity of storytelling to create a personal connection and resonance to climate change, which can drive engagement at a local level. Below, Jos, session Chair, explains what we mean by climate narratives;

    “There are narratives that we consume every day in news and cultural texts. There are narratives we articulate and (re)produce every day in our personal and professional lives. There are narratives we find ourselves within, and narratives that live within us as an integral part of our identities. Climate narratives cut across all of these scales from the personal right up to the international and historic. Three key thematic concerns stand out with respect to climate change: scale – how do different scales of narrative from the local to the global operate in different ways, and what particular challenges do each face?; agency – what different kind of narratives empower or disempower different peoples?; and genre – what kind of narratives have we absorbed and what kind of narratives do we exclude, and why? What is the politics behind the way we frame climate change as, for example, a ‘tragic leviathan’ (Timothy Clark) or as, for example, a ‘comedy of survival’ (Joseph Meeker)?” - Jos Smith

    Earlier in the year, during the ClimateUEA IPCC Authors Recognition Event, we learnt that UEA ‘is the university that has made the most substantial and sustained contribution to the IPCC across disciplines’. It then seems fitting that colleagues in our community offer their perspective on the Future of the IPCC: Challenges and Opportunities. Mr Asher Minns (TYN), Prof Rachel Warren (ENV), Dr Marie-Fanny Racault (ENV), Dr Rhosanna Jenkins (TYN) and Dr Phil Williamson ENV) provided a frank assessment, speaking collectively on the explosive growth of scientific literature, of the need to reduce bias and inequality within the process, the lack of consistency across working groups, the extreme workload associated with ownership and how society and human behaviour are strong obstacles to transformative action. Dr Rupert Read (PPL) provided another angle, urging governments to end the rhetoric and tell the truth over our ability to limit warming to 1.5 degrees.

    The Future of the IPCC conversation will continue with a workshop planned later in the year, bringing together all past UEA authors for a deeper discussion with a view to producing output for a journal.

    ClimateUEA Day concluded with attendees stirring up new interdisciplinary climate research courtesy of the Globe Trotter Mobile Bar and a menu of delicious climate-themed cocktails. It was perhaps one of those rare occasions when a ‘Climate Denier’ seemed appealing.

    Thank you to all our speakers and attendees for a stimulating afternoon of talks. We continue to welcome your contribution to these conversations. If you were not able to join us, or you have more to share, please email with your thoughts and/or suggestions of related research and activities.

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