The interactions between climate change and the carbon cycle and the future we choose
This year will be remembered as the year the world woke up to the climate crisis – and it’s about time!
Climate change is unfolding as predicted by scientists repeatedly and consistently over the past thirty years at least. We can now see the changes with our own eyes, and the impacts look a lot scarier in reality than on paper. But just how did we get here, and what comes next? Professor Corinne Le Quéré's lecture will present the scientific basis for climate change through the lenses of the natural carbon cycle. It will show how emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from human activities have caused the planet to warm, and have set in motion a train of changes in the natural carbon cycle.
Every year, the land and ocean natural carbon reservoirs, the so-called carbon ‘sinks’, absorb 55% on average of the CO2 emissions we put in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and other activities. The carbon sinks slow down the rate of climate change, but they respond themselves to a changing climate, by leaving more CO2 in the atmosphere. The latest evidence on trends in emissions and sinks of carbon of the past 60 years, reveals the limits of our understanding and the challenges we face to develop a planetary monitoring system that can keep track of the rapidly changing carbon cycle.
This Queen's Lecture will weave in the science of climate change and how it interacts with the carbon cycle, with the evolving relationship between scientists and society during the past decades. It will detail the growing momentum of global political leadership emerging to tackle climate change, the challenges that we face, and offer reflections on ways to bring about the future we choose.
The lecturer: Corinne Le Quéré
Corinne Le Quéré is Royal Society Research Professor at the University of East Anglia. She conducts research on the interactions between climate change and the carbon cycle. Her research has showed that climate change and variability affects the capacity of the Earth's natural carbon reservoirs to take up carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere by human activities.
Professor Le Quéré instigated and led for 13 years the annual update of the global carbon budget, an international effort to inform global climate agreements. She was author of three assessments reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was awarded the Nobel price prize in 2007, and is former Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.
Professor Le Quéré is Chair of France's High Council on climate, an independent experts body that advises the French Government on its responses to climate change, and member of the UK Committee on Climate Change. She was elected Fellow of the UK Royal Society in 2016 and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2019 for services to climate change science.
Watch the Queen's Lecture 2019 here!