5 Surprising Ways Yorkshire Scientists Are Tackling Climate Change
Image by Gerd Altmann
The UK is gearing up for the United Nations COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow later this year where the latest advances against climate change will take centre stage.
COP26 will bring world leaders and climate scientists from across the world together to accelerate action against climate change and help build a more sustainable society.
The conference, which will take place between 1st-12th November, will identify new ways to achieve a green economic recovery from the COVID pandemic.
Yorkshire is set to have a significant presence at the conference thanks to the ground-breaking work being done by Yorkshire scientists and innovators to mitigate the effects of climate change and build a greener, more sustainable society.
Here are five ways you (probably) didn’t know Yorkshire was tackling climate change and helping to build a greener, more sustainable society...
1. Saving our peatlands to soak up air pollution
iCASP Image: ©Janet Richardson / Jenny Armstrong
iCASP partners working on natural flood management as part of the Payment for Outcomes project in partnership with the National Trust and Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.
An excess of carbon in the atmosphere is one of the major drivers of climate change and so removing carbon from the atmosphere is an important task. Surprisingly, Yorkshire’s peatland plays big role in this. Peatland soaks up more carbon than all the world’s oceans combined, and Yorkshire peatland currently stores more than 38 million tonnes of carbon. This is why the Natural Environment Research Council is leading the charge to restore the UK’s peatland with the help of Yorkshire scientists through projects such as the Peatland-Es-UK initiative which has protected Yorkshire’s peatland since 2011.
2. Reducing waste with sustainable sequins
Future Fashion Factory Image: ©The Sustainable Sequin Company
The Sustainable Sequin Company is developing sequins from bioplastics to reduce the demand for synthetic polyester thanks to support from Yorkshire’s Future Fashion Factory.
More than 200-years ago Gomersal mill owner Benjamin Law transformed discarded rags into new cloth and created the world’s first ‘circular economy’. Today his legacy lives on in Yorkshire thanks to a wide range of innovative textile recycling projects. The Arts and Humanities Council-funded Future Fashion Factory, which is led by the University of Leeds, has spearheaded several game-changing initiatives that have made our clothes kinder to the planet. These include sustainable sequins that let you sparkle without adding to the landfill and intelligent systems to reduce manufacturing waste.
3. Developing climate friendly concrete
More than half of the world’s population now live in urban areas and as a result our towns and cities are responsible for the vast majority of carbon emissions. A lot of these emissions actually come from common cement which produces about 8% of the world's carbon dioxide. This is a big problem considering that concrete is the most widely used man-made material in the world and is second only to water as the most-consumed resource on the planet. This is why the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council are supporting a team of scientists and engineers at the University of Leeds to develop new types of cement solely based on waste or industrial by-products. These ‘alkali-activated materials’ are more sustainable and eco-friendly than other commercially available cements, and will play a key role in the development of low carbon infrastructure in the towns and cities of the future.
4. Planting trees to prevent floods
The Natural Environment Research Council-funded iCASP programme is a research hub that aims to generate £50million+ of benefits to Yorkshire’s economy by using cutting-edge environmental science to change Yorkshire for the better. iCASP has co-designed a variety of projects helping to protect Yorkshire against flood damage and enhance the natural environment. iCASP is helping to address climate change by supporting the design, delivery and monitoring of natural flood management across Yorkshire. This also includes the DERFA pilot NFM projects and helping to helping to establish Yorkshire as a centre of as excellence that continues to inform sustainable practices around the UK and is improving our understanding of how caring for our natural environment can reduce flooding.
5. Tackling air pollution in Yorkshire
The National Centre for Atmospheric Science at the University of York is dedicated to understanding and tackling air pollution. Air pollution poses a significant health risk and harms our environment, including our crops, our forests and our water. Scientists at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science are helping us to reduce air pollution and to understand where air pollution comes from. Researchers recently explored the sources of air pollution inside our home from everyday products such as perfumes and paint. To share their work, they teamed up with the Natural Environment Research Council and Aardman Animations to make a short animation, explaining how you can help reduce air pollution and protect the planet.
The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) is the UK’s national environmental research funding organisation that supports research across Yorkshire that is making a vital contribution to efforts to address the climate crisis.
In the year of the UN COP26 climate conference, this research is more important than ever and it is essential to protect and rebuild the natural environment.