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School of Geography

Carbon Policy

We Are Striving To Become A ‘Carbon-Neutral’ Geography Department

The information below will fill you in on our climate policy. When we offset, we do so each spring for the previous year. We have just completed offsetting for the last year, and you can read an explanation of our offsets for this spring soon.

It is now considered indisputable that humans are changing the earth’s climate via the enhanced greenhouse effect. Since the Industrial Revolution, human ingenuity has brought us marvels like electricity, the internal combustion engine and people on the moon, but this has not been without cost. In the timescale of just three human lifespans, we have extracted ancient coal, gas and oil stocks laid down over many millions of years. Not surprisingly, this has had a major effect on the earth's short-term carbon cycle. Since the emergence of human civilisation, our species has enjoyed relatively stable climatic conditions. This now seems set to change.

A great deal of warming is already in the pipeline, and the focus of scientists' alarm is on the need to avoid catastrophic levels of climate change. With current trends, emissions would soar over the next century, leading to global average temperature rises of up to 6 degrees centigrade. By comparison, average temperatures in the last ice age were only 6 degrees lower than those of today, with the change taking place over several millennia (partly due to gradual changes in the earth's tilt, and its orbit round the sun). A temperature change of the same magnitude in the space of just a single century would be a major shock to the planet's system, and would take the climate into a state without precedent for millions or even tens of millions of years.

Changes are already having impacts on societiescultures,landscapes, forests, wetlandsglacierssoils, and natural cycles – in short, all that geographers study and cherish.

We believe that as geographers, we should be particularly mindful to set an example by ensuring that our activities do not damage the environment.

The next few decades are crucial. At present, levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are still below 400 parts per million, beyond which there is an increasing risk of greater changes in the climate system, potentially with major adverse effects. For example, there are concerns that the Gulf Stream may shut down (or at least slow, a process which may already have begun), and that by mid-century large stretches of the Amazon rainforest could switch to a savanna climate which itself would accelerate global climate change by releasing more carbon from biomass and soils (see, for example, here and here).

Stabilising, and then reducing, concentrations of carbon dioxide before such dangerous thresholds are crossed represents a huge challenge, but with inventiveness and determination to pursue a more sustainable path these goals are possible.

At Leeds, the School of Geography is committed to pursuing an over-arching strategy of being carbon-neutral that can be encapsulated by the phrase:

Reduce where we can, Offset where we can’t [more]