As stated in the Edinburgh Science Festival brochure, “In 2018, top environmental scientists issued a final call to save our planet from catastrophic climate change. They argued that ‘rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’ are necessary to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) special report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius states that to avert catastrophic, irreversible climate change, we must halve carbon emissions by the 2030 and reach net zero emissions by the middle of this century.
On the release of the report, Sir David Attenborough commented that if action isn’t taken now the collapse of our civilization and the extinction of a majority of our natural world is on the horizon.
Alarmingly, this year, the UK recorded temperatures which broke previous records twice in a two day period.
The Edinburgh Science Festival hosted a 90 minute panel discussion by experts and personalities from the industry who presented their plans of combating climate change. The panel included Steven Scrimshaw, Managing Director Siemens Power & Gas, UK and Ireland, Prof Geoff Simm, Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security Edinburgh; Ragne Low, Chair climate change NGO Sniffer and Principal Knowledge Exchange Fellow at Strathclyde Centre for Energy Policy and was moderated by Dr Simon Gage, Edinburgh Science Festival director.
All three panelists came from different backgrounds, and offered a unique perspective to the discussion. Mr Scrimshaw offered insight from the technology and industry point of view. He gave examples of technological developments in the industry which could be the next big thing in renewable sustainable energy, for example, gas turbines being more efficient in producing energy and potentially solving environment problems. Giving an example of the UK government putting in almost 40bn pounds every year to amass energy from offshore winds, he also spoke about how government policy can influence regulations in renewable energy.
Prof Geoff Simm spoke about the different ways in which land was being used, farming techniques affecting soil, the different food habits that people have adopted that might affect climate change. Ms Ragne primarily focused in how the governments, with effective policy making and implementation, can change the entire landscape of climate change in the world. She mentioned that if policy were in its proper place, people would follow accordingly.
EAt the end of the session, the panel engaged in an interactive Q&A session with the audience. The audience members asked some really interesting questions, a few being “how do you tackle conversations with climate change deniers?” “Is climate change a conversation strictly restricted for the elite,” “how important is policy-making in this age” and perhaps most relevant, “Is misinformation of denying climate change just noise, or does it have an actual impact on the fight in protecting our planet?”
Towards the end, Ragne Low spoke about the words used by Edinburgh Medal winner Christiana Figueres (recognised for her achievement brokering the Paris Agreement in December 2015) in her speech while accepting the award. Figueres said there was a need for “stubborn optimism” that would be the starting point of success in achieving our battle against climate change.
Simon Gage also mentioned how the fight is not regarding what UK or any particular country does, but the big picture is that to combat climate change a massive change is needed in the way we all lead our lives and the change has to happen now. “It is a different world, but it is an attractive one. And we need to be helped to understand how we can easily play our part in reaching this new reality.”
And on that note of stubborn optimism, the audience turned to leave The Pleasance with a higher level of understanding and hopefully, a deeper conscience to act for the planet.
This post was written by Shruti Sundaresan and edited by Karolina Zieba.