GDB2 | As climate change impacts accelerate, are we sleepwalking into the inferno…?
As climate change impacts accelerate, are we sleepwalking into the inferno…?
Convener: Nick Everard | Co-conveners: Hayley Fowler, Rolf Hut
Mon, 24 Apr, 16:15–18:00 (CEST)
Room E1
Mon, 16:15
The sheer number and ferocity of extreme weather events causing major impacts in recent years have shocked and surprised many, including those working in the earth science community. We are seeing temperature records smashed by large margins, unprecedented wildfires, and floods with huge destructive power and massive impacts.

Despite widespread media coverage of these devastating events, policy and public opinion still lag a long way behind what is required to address the climate crisis effectively and rapidly.

This Great Debate asks why this might be the case, and critically examines the role of the earth science community in driving public opinion and policy making. It will examine the messaging, the tone and the science that shapes how climate change is presented to the public and policymakers, and look at how our community can help to drive climate action before it is too late.

The session will ask:
• Climate change impacts appear to be worse than we thought, and have come sooner than we thought. Is this the case?
• Are the traditional methods of describing climate change, in terms of 1.5 oC of warming, 7% more precipitation etc. hindering more than helping, since it is the terrifying extreme events way outside of these narrow margins that have such catastrophic impacts?
• Is the term ‘warming’ in itself problematic? Warmth is generally perceived as a good thing, a nice thing. 50 oC heat and raging wildfires however are anything but good or nice.
• How can we effectively forecast and express the extremes, and communicate the potential impact of major tipping points?
• Has the policy of putting an optimistic spin on the climate crisis failed? Does the conversation now need to pivot toward the terrifying consequences of inaction?
• How do we ensure messaging from the earth science community is impactful and effective…?

We are very excited to welcome the following contributors to this great debate: 

•    Dr. Philippe Tulkens: Head of Unit, European Commission, DG Research & Innovation, Healthy Planet Directorate – Climate and Planetary Boundaries Unit
•    Prof. Ed Hawkins: Climate scientist, National Centre for Atmospheric Science at the University of Reading. Creator of Warming Stripes:
•    Dr. Noel Baker: Project Manager at the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy, Climate Scientist, and Activist
•    Prof. Dr. Maartin van Aalst: Director-General and Chief Science Officer of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute
•    Dr. Elena López Gunn: Founder and Director of ICATALIST

Questions from the audience will form a significant part of this session, so come prepared, but please, please, please, be succinct..! Time is limited, so we will allow no question to take longer than 1 minute to ask....!

Session assets


  • Ed Hawkins, National Centre for Atmospheric Science, University of Reading, United Kingdom
  • Elena Lopez-Gunn, I-CATALIST, Spain
  • Maarten van Aalst, KNMI, Netherlands
  • Noel Baker, Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy, Belgium
  • Philippe Tulkens, European Commission, Belgium