SDG 13 - Climate Action

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Gateway Antarctica

Located at UC, Gateway Antarctica plays a leading role in national and international Antarctic research. The Centre draws on interdisciplinary collaborative research networks across UC, and has three research programmes of global significance, and strategic importance. One programme engages in research on the causes, effects and responses of the Antarctic system to global change. Another programme focuses on individual species and communities and how they respond to environmental variability and change. The third programme engages in legal, historical, socio-cultural and policy analyses within the context of international law and foreign and domestic public policy.

 

Equipping Environmental Scientists to Make a Difference

In a first for Aotearoa, UC offers a four-year degree to upskill environmental scientists during a time of rising concern about climate change. The new Bachelor of Environmental Science with Honours degree will provide students with practical skills across varied disciplines of science. UC’s Professor Sally Gaw says environmental scientists are needed to step up and help address some of the urgent sustainability issues the world is facing: “Rapid environmental change and diminishing resource means the planet needs - more than ever - highly skilled environmental scientists empowered to make a difference.”

 

On Carbon Net Neutrality by 2030

We have been monitoring our emissions for over 10 years now, and achieved certification in the Carbon Reduce scheme in 2011. We were the first University in the Southern Hemisphere to do both. Since 2010 our greenhouse gas emissions have reduced by almost a third. Current plans to achieve further carbon net neutrality by 2030 involve six priority actions: low carbon energy and carbon sequestration programmes; reducing air travel, fleet vehicle emissions, and building electricity intensity; and expanding our EV charging network.

 

The Importance of Measuring Antarctic Sea Ice

In 2020, for the first time ever, a research team used a fixed wing aircraft to measure the thickness of a huge area of sea ice in Antarctica. Led by UC’s Glaciologist, Associate Professor Wolfgang Rack, the team measured the ice thickness by using a Basler BT-67 plane (modified DC-3) towing specialist equipment underneath, covering a massive area of around 800 kilometres. Associate Professor Rack explains: “Sea ice is important because it reflects sunlight, insulates the warm ocean from the cold Antarctic atmosphere and its formation controls global ocean circulation. How Antarctic sea ice responds to a warming planet is a key question in climate science, and as data sets are limited, this research will help place future change in context.” The team are planning another trip to Antarctica in late 2021 and the hope is, in future years, this can be done via satellite.

 

Emperor Penguins in Dire Straits

Emperor penguins are some of the most striking and charismatic animals on Earth. UC’s Dr Michelle LaRue participated in an international group study on emperor penguins. The group found that climate change may render this breed of (emperor) penguins extinct by the end of this century. By combining two existing computer models, the researchers ran the models using several scenarios in which global temperatures increase by varying degrees Celsius. Under one particular scenario of ‘business as usual’ they found there would be an almost complete loss of the emperor penguin colonies. “Basically, if we don’t hit the Paris Accord emissions goals, emperor penguins are in deep trouble,” says Dr Michelle LaRue.