(Photo credit: Gennadiy Ivanov)
On the 50th anniversary year of UEA’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU), the stark impact of climate change both locally and worldwide has been brought into a unique focus by a giant mural now on display in Norwich City Council’s council chamber.
The mural, entitled ‘Climate Mural for our Times’, is a 10m x 1.5m piece that includes a record of global temperature over time (66 million BC through to the end of the next century) represented by the hues of the sky, and informed by CRU’s ‘state-of-the-art’ climate science.
Produced by Norwich-based artist Gennadiy Ivanov, the mural also features renderings of the impacts of climate change on the local landscape and its human inhabitants. It is believed that this is the first time that art and leading-edge science have been combined to give such a vivid portrayal of the challenges posed by climate change and its impacts in the past, the present, and the future.
The artwork has been showcased on the same month that world leaders convened at the COP27 conference to deliver action on climate emergency issues and the annual update from the Global Carbon Budget research team, which included researchers from UEA, that revealed there is now a 50% chance that global warming of 1.5°C will be exceeded in nine years.
The mural and accompanying paintings are the outcome of a collaboration between Norwich City Council, CRU, the Transitions Art-Science Project, and Global Water Futures, an international research programme whose headquarters are based at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.
The project is a novel coming together of art, science and local democracy, and is intended to be the first step of an ongoing art-science project involving local community groups and organisations. At the launch, the mural will be accompanied by several easel-mounted paintings depicting the local impacts at the various time-periods painted in the mural.
To find out more and get an in-depth look at the mural and its meaning, in addition to Norfolk’s climate story, make sure to read the specially produced long-read article all about it: A Climate Mural for our Times.
One of the mural panels, showing human life through the ice ages and into relative climate calm of the Holocene 12,000 years ago (Photo credit: Gennadiy Ivanov)
Gennadiy Ivanov, who has a gallery in Upper St Giles Street and a studio in Anglia Square, said “It was a long project – almost four years in total – and very hard work. But it is amongst the most fascinating things I have ever done.
“I am privileged to have worked so closely with scientists, using the finest climate research, and being continually informed by the history of Norwich and Norfolk and I feel very proud and humbled that my work will be mounted in the very fine Norwich City Hall. I hope the mural helps people understand what has happened, is happening and may happen, and that it contributes to us all choosing a better future.”
Councillor Alan Waters, Leader of Norwich City Council, said: “The city council is hugely proud to host this climate mural. Norwich has always been at the forefront of understanding and tackling the threat of a warming climate and by placing this impressive, evocative artwork in the centre of City Hall, in our council chamber, we have an ever-present reminder to take the urgent actions required. The council has made good progress on reducing carbon emissions already, but we know the choices we make as a city now will be vital to securing a sustainable future.”
Trevor Davies, Emeritus Professor and Former Director of CRU, said: “I was delighted with Alan Waters’ enthusiastic response when Gennadiy and I first suggested a painting in the City Hall. It was his idea that it should be a mural in the Council Chamber, and that it should include the ‘temperature stripes’. The fact that he saw the significance of the work, and its potential value for decision-making, certainly reflects his far-sightedness. It’s fantastic that CRU played such a big part.”
Dr Michael Taylor said: “The climate stripes of the mural span the Age of Mammals and two simulated futures: one where we carry on with business as usual and destroy our civilisation, and another where we act now to collectively mitigate against the worse impacts of climate change. We hope this mural will change hearts and minds and move those who view it to help deliver a just transition to a sustainable world for future generations.”
Artist and producer Gennadiy Ivanov with the mural in its early stages (Photo credit: Gennadiy Ivanov)
The Climatic Research Unit, founded within UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences in 1972, is one of the world’s leading institutions in the study of climate change.
In 1982, the unit published a global dataset of temperature observations over land, extending this to include the oceans in 1986 to historically create the world’s first global temperature record. This dataset, continually updated in collaboration with the Met Office, which demonstrates unequivocally that the globe has warmed since 1850 and is depicted in the sky of the mural.
CRU has published its research into climate change in nearly 2,000 articles over the course of its 50 years and CRU scientists continue to create datasets used worldwide by research and governmental institutions to track climate change, as well as refining predictions of future climate change and its consequences.
Tim Osborn, Professor and Director of UEA’s Climatic Research Unit, said: “This has been a rich collaboration between UEA climate science, art and local decision makers. The outcome is a compelling visual story of how society and climate have always been intertwined, how these interactions are stronger than ever. But also that we mustn’t despair.
“We know how our activities cause the climate to change because of huge leaps forward in science, including those made during the 50 years of the Climatic Research Unit. And that knowledge illuminates our future, and gives us the power to choose our future climate path.”
You can find out more information about the Climatic Research Unit, including a more detailed story of their 50-year history, on the UEA website and in UEA's long-read article.