The experts making a difference

Penguins on ice

NERC expertise has played a central part in all the published assessment reports of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the cornerstones of international climate agreements. But what about the incredible people behind the science? What are their opinions on climate change and what makes them tick? We meet the NERC scientists who are helping us all to understand every element of our planet, one groundbreaking discovery at a time.

Dr Carol TurleyDr Carol Turley

A Senior Scientist with Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Dr Carol Turley began working for NERC in 1993. She has published and presented on a wide range of topics within the field of ocean acidification. The recipient of a NERC exchange open fellowship, she has over 130 peer-reviewed publications and has been an invited speaker at numerous international conferences. In 2011, Dr Turley received an OBE for services to science.

What IPCC reports have you been involved in?

In 2007, for the IPCC, I was Lead Author for the Ecosystem Chapter in WGII, Assessment Report 4 (AR4). After that, 2014 saw me as Review Editor for the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) for the Ocean Chapter in WGII, and in 2019, I was Review Editor for the IPCC’s Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, covering Chapter six on extreme events.

Why is your research important and what are the possible real-world applications?

The ocean is at the front line of climate change, receiving all the water from melting ice, more than 90% of the heat energy from warming and 25-30% of our CO2 emissions. If the ocean changes (and it is) it will impact us all. When I started this work (through NERC with the IPCC) I wanted the world and policymakers to understand the major impacts of CO2 emissions and the urgent need to cut them.

What is your favourite aspect of your research?

Seeing the penny drop and people/policymakers understanding and taking timetabled action.

What happens next in your process of discovery on battling climate change?

Ocean and climate are relevant to everyone on Earth. So continuing to bring the science of ocean climate change to policymakers at the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon in 2021 (COVID-19 permitting) and at the UNFCCC COP26 (the annual negotiations on climate attended by all nations) in Glasgow in November 2021 are next.

What do you hope for the future?

Peace and climate stability at a reasonable level. We must embrace change if we are to meet our climate targets.

What three words describe you?

Kind, thoughtful and resilient.

Professor Mike MeredithProfessor Mike Meredith 

Professor Mike Meredith is an oceanographer and Science Leader at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in Cambridge, UK. He is head of the Polar Oceans Team at BAS and holds an honorary Professorship at the University of Bristol. He is also a fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society, and a recipient of the Polar Medal. In 2018, he was awarded the Tinker-Muse Prize for Science and Policy in Antarctica and the Challenger Medal for exceptional contributions to Marine Science.

Can you give us an analogy to help understand your work?

The ocean is like a huge sponge, soaking up heat and carbon from the atmosphere and thereby slowing global warming. However, we don’t know how long the sponge can carry on working at its current rate, or when it might become saturated. We need to know so that policies can be designed and implemented to deal with it.

What one thing do you think we can all do to help tackle climate change?

My main advice would be to ensure that when people exercise their democratic right and elect representatives, they make sure that those representatives have climate change fully on their agendas and are completely committed to tackling it.

What happens next in your process of discovery on battling climate change?

I’m currently in the Antarctic (at the time of writing) on a research expedition on the NERC ship RRS James Clark Ross. We are investigating how the Southern Ocean impacts on Antarctic glaciers in a region of rapid change, and what that glacial change means for ecosystems and life on the seabed.

What’s your favourite thing to do when you’re not working?

Spending time with my family.

What IPCC reports have you been involved with?

I was the Coordinating Lead Author for the Polar Regions chapter in the latest IPCC report (the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate). This is a very broad-based interdisciplinary report, assessing how the global ocean and the frozen regions of the planet are changing, how they are likely to change in future, and what the implications are for ecosystems and people right around the world. 

Dr Philip GoodwinDr Philip Goodwin

Dr Philip Goodwin is Associate Professor in Earth System Dynamics within Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton at the University of Southampton. A NERC Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Dr Goodwin has been at the forefront of research into the physics of climate change. He is also part of the CO2 Modeller team, an advanced app that runs a fast climate model on smartphones and tablets, with the original scientific research funded by NERC.

What IPCC reports have you been involved in?

I have been an expert reviewer on the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, and on the forthcoming Assessment Report 6. To help gain an evidence base in response to the Paris Climate Agreement, NERC announced funding for projects looking at a 1.5°C world. I led one of these NERC projects, and our team produced publications that were cited in the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C.

Why is your area of scientific discovery important (or relevant) for the ordinary citizen of this country?

Our society is built around activities that emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which in turn causes climate change. My research aims to find out how quickly we will have to reduce carbon dioxide emissions for different climate targets.

What is the coolest thing about your work?

I think the coolest thing about my research was finding out that the climate simulation I developed for scientific purposes could also be run on a mobile phone. This led to the development of the CO2 modeller climate app (www.co2modeller.info).

Who’s your biggest inspiration and why?

I couldn’t possibly pick one person! Lots of people have influenced my scientific career – both those who I have worked with and scientists whose discoveries I have studied and whose books I have read.

Chart overview of NERC expert contributions.

Fast facts: The IPCC

What?
The IPCC is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change.

When?
It was set up in 1988.

Why?
The IPCC was formed by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to assess climate change based on the latest science.

How?
Thousands of experts from around the world, including multiple NERC scientists, collate the most recent developments in adaptation, climate science, mitigation and vulnerability, culminating in major assessment reports produced every five to seven years. The next report, Assessment Report 6 (AR6), is due in 2022.