From the UK being battered by “super storm” Ciara, to the devastating wildfires in Australia, the effects of global climate change have never been as clear as they are today.
Climate change doesn’t necessarily cause these events, but regarding circumstances that ordinarily would have led to much more minor incidents, climate change plays a massive role. The human-caused changes to the atmosphere lead to exacerbated weather extremes and have narrowed the distribution of mild weather events, in turn causing more violent ones.
Recently, climate change has shifted from being a trivial topic at times, to a top policy-making consideration and a political football. It was abused by the likes of both sides of the political spectrum with matters such as Brexit and the December election; despite this, we rarely ever see any radical mentality changes, and instead have to endure the same endless incrementalism that satisfies election promises but does not go far enough with mitigating the effects on our environment.
A large part of the problem is the abstractness of the core issue and the unfamiliarity regarding it. To a large proportion of the public, climate change is an intangible entity that doesn’t have any clear origin or impact, which is made even more bewildering by the warping of facts by politicians, the media and lobbyists who serve to benefit from this obscurity.
In an effort to counter these sorts of issues, there have been 53 innovative projects set up across the UK with the purpose of targeting communities who would ordinarily not engage with research and innovation to contribute to world-leading research on air quality, plastic pollution, period poverty, farming methods and many other issues that influence their daily lives.
One of these projects is being led by the University of Manchester’s Professor Sheena Cruickshank, funded by the government via the research and innovation funding agency UK Research and Innovation.
These projects will aim to engage citizens in science and to encourage communities to take an active stance in decision making and to share their ideas, concerns, and aspirations. The projects also aim to inspire a new generation of children and young people about the wonder and potential of research and innovation.
Professor Sheena Cruickshank stated that “[She is] really excited at this opportunity to work with the community in this way. The residents are really concerned about how rising air pollution is impacting their health and that of their families. It’s so important we listen and act on these concerns and involve them in this process.”
These projects epitomise what should be being done by governments worldwide. The key to tackling the growing environmental crisis lies not with the need for the public to be careful with their own resources (although important), but instead with the spread of knowledge and tackling issues on the small-scale, which in turn leads to the public’s real understanding and awareness of the topic.
This has a very far-reaching impact since it precipitates genuine political interest and concern, and allows policy change that mitigates the real cause of climate change: indifferent big corporations seeking infinite growth at all costs.