20 years of pioneering climate research

Published by  Communications

On 28th Oct 2020

Senior hands giving small planet earth model to a child

From adapting to heatwaves, to decarbonisation and coastal sea-level rises, the work of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research assesses and explores responses to climate change for people and environments around the world.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Tyndall Centre, a unique partnership between UEA - where it is headquartered - and the Universities of Cardiff, Manchester, Newcastle, and since 2010, Fudan University in Shanghai.

The Tyndall Centre was founded, with then director Prof Mike Hulme, in 2000 to conduct cutting edge, interdisciplinary research, and provide a link between scientists and policymakers. Its launch was at Congregation Hall on Campus, which at the time was the Centre’s headquarters.

Then and now, the Centre represents a substantial body of the UK’s climate change research expertise from across natural science, engineering science, and social science. It was also the first interdisciplinary venture to be jointly funded by UK research councils.

Over the last 20 years, the Tyndall Centre has significantly advanced the fundamental analysis of emission reduction from all major energy sectors, the understanding of climate impacts, risks, and adaptation options, the public perceptions of climate change, and the governance of climate negotiations and policymaking. 

At UEA, the Tyndall Centre spans the Faculties of Sciences and Social Sciences, including PhD students, postdoctoral researchers and professors, from the School of Environmental Sciences, the School of International Development, Norwich Business School, and the School of Psychology.

The Centre, with Prof Corinne Le Quéré as director, was for many years one of the key coordinating contributors to the Global Carbon Budget, an international initiative of leading research organisations and scientists to develop a complete picture of the global carbon cycle, to better inform climate policy and earth system science. 

Its researchers continue to contribute this work, as well as current research themes such as overcoming poverty with climate actions for the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world; reaching zero carbon emissions; and accelerating social transitions to achieve low carbon behaviours and sustainability. 

Linked to this work around net zero and behaviours is a new sister Centre, the ESRC-funded Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (CAST), set-up in May 2019. A partnership of UEA and the Universities of Manchester and York, it is led by Cardiff University and Prof Lorraine Whitmarsh, a former UEA postdoctoral researcher in the School of Environmental Sciences. 

Over the last year the Tyndall Centre at UEA has been instrumental in setting up ScienceBrief.org, a new platform to help make sense of scientific publications. As well as enabling scientists to contribute relevant papers on current topics and appraise one another’s work, it aims to produce rapid reviews of existing knowledge in response to real-time issues and events, such as the wildfires that have devastated areas of the US and Australia in recent months. 

In May 2020 Tyndall UEA also began OpenCLIM (Open Climate Impacts Modelling Framework) to inform the approach of the next UK Climate Change National Risk Assessment, led by Prof Robert Nicholls, current director of the Tyndall Centre. 

Executive director of the Centre, Asher Minns, said: “I attended the launch of the Tyndall Centre in 2000, joined it, and UEA, a few years later and I still seem to be here. The influence of the Tyndall Centre on the way that climate change research is done, on interdisciplinary research, on policy and public understanding of climate change, I think is vast and immeasurable. 

“We actually changed the way that research is conducted and climate change is thought about, that is an amazing legacy. There are many brilliant climate change research organisations now, pretty much all of them inspired by the Tyndall Centre launched in Congregation Hall.”

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