As part of the RV Jones Distinguished Lecture Series hosted by the School of Engineering, this lecture looks at the urgent need for us to adapt, as well as reduce emissions in order to combat climate change.
The world is now almost 1.2 degrees warmer than in pre-industrial times, and we are already seeing the global impacts of the changing climate: 2020 concluded the warmest 10 year period on record; 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded; in 2018 wildfires in the US burned more than twice the area they did in 1970, in 2021 we experienced extreme climate events in all parts of the world. The IPCC AR6 reports tell us that the climate is changing faster, and the extremes are more extreme than we predicted.
The Paris agreement commits countries to try and keep temperature rise by the end of the century down to as close to 1.5 degrees as possible. The recent IPCC AR6 Report says we are likely to miss this target – to keep below 2 degrees we must start to reduce global emissions now.
If we continue as we are the world could warm by an average of as much as 4 degrees by 2050, with dramatic effects on weather, drought, flooding, food availability, conflict, migration, wildlife – leaving parts of our world uninhabitable.
Taking the UK as an example, with the Climate Change Act 2008, the lecture will look at the urgent need for us to act on adaptation, as well as emissions reduction. Achieving net zero by mid-century or earlier is critical, but it is not enough. Even on a net-zero emissions path, the climate will continue changing to 2050 and beyond – we will look back on every ten years as ‘the warmest on record'. Alongside net zero we must adapt to our changing climate.
Baroness Brown of Cambridge DBE FREng FRS, Julia King
Julia King has had a career which combines industry and higher education. She is currently chair of the Adaptation Committee of the Climate Change Committee, the Carbon Trust and STEM Learning, and a non-executive director of Ørsted, Ceres Power and Frontier IP. She also chairs the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee.
Following an academic career at Cambridge, in 1994 she joined Rolls-Royce plc where she held several senior positions including Managing Direct of the Fan Systems, Director of Advanced Engineering for the Industrial Businesses and Engineering Director for the Marine Business. In 2002 she became CEO of the Institute of Physics, and in 2004 was appointed Principal of the Engineering Faculty at Imperial College, London, becoming Vice Chancellor of Aston University from 2006 to 2016.
Julia was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1997 and the Royal Society of London in 2017. IN 1999 she was awarded a CBE for services to materials engineering, followed by a DBE in 2012 for services to higher education and technology. She was elevated to the Peerage in 2015 and sits as a Crossbench Member of the House of Lords.
Her main interests are climate change, STEM education and innovation. She was vice-chair of the Climate Change Committee from 2008 to 2021, led the King Review for the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2008 on decarbonising transport, and is a member of the Government’s Hydrogen Advisory Council and climate advisor to the Jet Zero Council. She was a non-executive director of the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and Sector Campion for the Offshore Wind Sector Deal as part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy. Until December 2021 she chaired the Henry Royce Institute for Advanced Materials, and she has served three terms on the board of Innovate UK
Her academic research includes over 160 papers on fatigue and fracture in structural materials and developments in aerospace and marine propulsion.