As pioneers of global climate change research, UEA has had a significant impact on international strategies to tackle the challenge of climate change.
The Global Carbon Project, an international programme established in 2001, aims to develop a complete picture of the global carbon cycle and inform climate policy. It has become a definitive source on carbon budgets and draws heavily on UEA's ocean carbon cycle research.
In 2005, Professor Corinne Le Quéré FRS, the current Director of the Tyndall Centre at UEA, instigated the release of annual carbon budgets within the Global Carbon Project.
The first global carbon budget identified that global carbon emissions were increasing beyond expectations. Although in 2016 the global carbon budget showed that emissions had remained below 1% growth for the third year; the 2017 budget shows that global carbon emissions are on the rise again.
“With global CO2 emissions from human activities estimated at 41 billion tonnes for 2017, time is running out on our ability to keep warming well below 2ºC let alone 1.5ºC.”
Lead researcher Prof Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at UEA
Lead researcher Prof Corinne Le Quéré said “Global CO2 emissions appear to be going up strongly once again after a three year stable period. This is very disappointing.
“With global CO2 emissions from human activities estimated at 41 billion tonnes for 2017, time is running out on our ability to keep warming well below 2ºC let alone 1.5ºC.
“This year we have seen how climate change can amplify the impacts of hurricanes with more intense rainfall, higher sea levels and warmer ocean conditions favouring more powerful storms. This is a window into the future. We need to reach a peak in global emissions in the next few years and drive emissions down rapidly afterwards to address climate change and limit its impacts.”
These videos, produced in conjunction with Future Earth, introduce the global carbon project and the 2017 Global Carbon Budget.
There are three research areas at UEA that help inform climate policy: global carbon budgets, ocean carbon sink, and ocean acidification and iron fertilization.
Environmental science researchers at UEA have played prominent roles in establishing carbon budgets. Their work on increasing knowledge on the trends in global emissions and sinks of carbon is crucial for maintaining an accurate understanding of the evolution of the world’s climate, determining meaningful targets for reductions in carbon emissions, and providing early warning of weakening in the efficiency of carbon sinks.
UEA researchers have led high profile studies showing the sensitivity of the ocean carbon sink to climate, particularly in the remote Southern Ocean and North Atlantic, and demonstrated that it is possible to accurately observe the carbon flux in an ocean basin using instrumented commercial vessels.
Photo: D Bakker: R.V. Polarstern at the ice shelf near the German Neumayer station, taken on 13/12/2002 16:00 at 8.19°W 70.51°S during research cruise ANT20/2.
UEA researchers advance understanding of how marine ecosystems contribute to the carbon cycle. They enabled iron release experiments in the open ocean with the development of a water-tracking technique. They scrutinize the ecosystems response to iron fertilization and ocean acidification with genomics, lab and ocean field studies, and modeling.
Photo: D Bakker: Gale force winds promote air‐sea carbon dioxide (CO2) exchange over the Southern Ocean during research cruise JR239 on the RRS James Clark Ross.
UEA’s work on the global carbon budget is published annually in the autumn prior to the annual meeting of the UN Conference of the Parties and is disseminated via social media.
This effort supports a better public understanding of climate change, and how the carbon cycle is affecting it. It has contributed to evidence that has led to a strengthening of the UK emissions reductions target for 2050 from 60 to 80% in 2008, a target that is part of the UK Climate Change Act and at the core of the 5-year UK carbon budgets. Prof. Le Quéré is now part of the Committee on Climate Change that advises the UK government on emissions targets.
Infographic: Global Carbon Project 2017 (reproduced with permission from Future Earth under Creative Commons license)
The global carbon budget research is highly cited by influential opinion sources, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 2007. It is the scientific evidence at the base of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. UEA is the university that has made the most substantial and sustained contribution to the IPCC across disciplines.
Prof. Le Quéré is part of the Science Committee of Future Earth; a research initiative on global environmental change and global sustainability.
Watch Prof. Le Quéré's recent UEA London Lecture
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