The Antarctic Canary -- the human impact on climate change

September 04, 2006

As the UK attempts to move towards a low carbon economy, leading scientists and a world expert on sustainable energy in buildings this week discuss the evidence for climate change and possible solutions. A public seminar - 'the Antarctic Canary - the human impact on climate change' at the BA Festival of Science in Norwich will be held on Monday 4 September.

Evidence from an 800,000-year Antarctic ice core record shows unprecedented atmospheric change due to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Dr Eric Wolff from British Antarctic Survey (BAS), leader of the science team for the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (EPICA) says,

"Ice cores reveal the Earth's natural climate rhythm over the last 800,000 years. When carbon dioxide changed there was always an accompanying climate change. Over the last 200 years human activity has increased carbon dioxide to well outside the natural range and we have no analogue for what will happen next."

Although large increases in carbon dioxide may be alleviated by natural sinks in the ocean and on land, a critical issue is how these sinks will behave in the future. For the last 15 years international scientists, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, have used research into carbon cycle by Dr Corrinne Le Quéré of UEA and BAS. She says,

'Our land and oceans may well become less efficient carbon sinks as concentrations increase. We cannot rely on them to solve the problem.'

Scientific knowledge, especially about climate change, is essential for a sustainable economy. In the UK the built environment accounts for around 50% of energy consumption, with housing alone contributing around 27% of UK carbon dioxide emissions.

Professor Peter Smith, University of Nottingham and author of 'Architecture in a Climate of Change', offers creative solutions to improve the energy efficiency of buildings. He says,

"There is an urgent need to find innovative technologies to reduce the impact we are having on our climate. If we are committed to a low carbon economy the UK needs a vigorous twin track programme of demand reduction and renewable energy technology. Governments may have only 10 years in which to determine the destiny of our planet - giving only five years in which to develop feasibility and design studies. I am disappointed that the recent UK Energy Review totally fails to appreciate the urgency of the situation."
-end-
Issued by BAS Press Office:

Linda Capper tel: 01223 221448, mobile: 07714 233744, email l.capper@bas.ac.uk or
Athena Dinar tel: 01223 221414, mobile: 07740 822229 email: a.dinar@bas.ac.uk
Professor Peter Smith, mob: 07810 237557

Notes to Editors:

A press conference will be held at the Science Festival Press Centre on Monday 4 September. All three speakers will be present. Contact the Press Office as above.

Broadcast quality footage of Antarctic ice core research, as well as stills, isavailable from the BAS press office.

Dr Eric Wolff is an ice core chemist at British Antarctic Survey and the Principal Investigator for "Climate and Chemistry" science programme. As chair of the science group of the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica, he has played a leading role in the drilling, analysis and interpretation of the oldest ice core drilled so far: the 3260-metre long core from Dome C in central Antarctica.

Dr. Corinne Le Quéré is a physicist working as Associate Professor at the University of East Anglia and as a researcher at the British Antarctic Survey. She has worked on the carbon cycle for 15 years and has been very active in producing CO2 budgets used by the science community, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Her research focuses on the large CO2 sinks in the ocean, and how these vary under different climate and under the influence of marine biology.

Professor Peter Smith is Special Professor in Sustainable Energy, University of Nottingham; Emeritus Professor, Leeds Metropolitan University. He was Vice President of the RIBA and chairman of its Environment and Energy Committee from 1987 - 2002. He is the Director of the Pilkington Energy Efficiency Trust and author of several books on environmental matters including Architecture in a Climate of Change 2nd Ed 2005 and Sustainability at the Cutting Edge 2nd Ed at press 2006. The manuscript for his latest work, Climate, Energy and Technology - A programme of intensive care for a planet, is with publishers Architectural Press/Elsevier.

The session is chaired by:

Robert Culshaw, Deputy Director of British Antarctic Survey (BAS). He is a former British Diplomat: after joining the Foreign Office in 1974, he served in the Middle East, Italy, Greece, and the United States. He also spent two years as the British Government's Chief Spokesman on foreign affairs. His final Foreign Office appointment was in London, as Director for the Americas and the Overseas Territories (including British Antarctic Territory).

British Antarctic Survey

British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is a leading international centre for global science in the Antarctic context. Its suite of science programmes addresses key global and regional issues through research, survey and monitoring. BAS also helps to discharge the UK's international responsibilities under the Antarctic Treaty System. British Antarctic Survey is part of the Natural Environment Research Council.

For more information on British Antarctic Survey please visit the website at: www.antarctica.ac.uk

The University of Nottingham undertakes world-changing research and provides teaching of the highest quality. Ranked in the THES World Top 100 Universities, its academics have won two Nobel Prizes since 2003. An international institution, the University has campuses in the United Kingdom, Malaysia and China.

British Antarctic Survey

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