The centre is expected to open in Autumn 2019Louis ashworth

The University of Cambridge is planning to establish a new research centre to investigate technological solutions to challenges related to climate change.

The idea was put forward by Professor Sir David King, Emeritus Professor in physical chemistry at Cambridge and former Chief Scientific Adviser to the government.

He told BBC News: “what we do over the next 10 years will determine the future of humanity for the next 10,000 years. There is no major centre in the world that would be focussed on this one big issue”.

If implemented, the Centre for Climate Repair will investigate radical means by which to repair the effects climate change. One idea involves refreezing the earth’s polar regions by spraying seawater up to tall masts on uncrewed ships through very fine nozzles. Another consideration is the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. CO2 would potentially be extracted out of the atmosphere and synthesised into fuel, ultimately resulting in the recycling of CO2. The centre would also explore the ‘greening’ of oceans so they can take up more CO2.

It will form part of the University’s Carbon Neutral Futures Initiative, a project proposed in June 2018 in a report produced by the Divestment Working Group. At the time, the University Council stated that the Centre “will provide academic leadership, across the sciences and social sciences” by “engaging with forward-thinking energy companies which are, themselves, moving in this direction”.

Dr Emily Shuckburgh, climate scientist and co-leader of the Polar Oceans division at British Antarctic Survey, was recently appointed the first director of the Carbon Neutral Futures Initiative. If established, she will work alongside Sir David at the research centre.

Citing climate change as “one of the most important challenges of our time”, Dr. Shuckburgh told BBC News that the initiative’s mission would be to “solve the climate problem”.

“It has to be. And we can’t fail on it”, she continued.

In a statement, Dr. Shuckburgh specified that “when considering how to tackle a problem as large, complex and urgent as climate change, we need to look at the widest possible range of ideas and to investigate radical innovations such as those proposed by Sir David”.

She highlighted that “all aspects” of these ideas, including “the technological advances required, the potential unintended consequences and side effects, the costs, the rules and regulations that would be needed, as well as the public acceptability”, must be assessed.

“Climate repair can actually take it out of the atmosphere. We can get the level down below what it is now and actually cool the climate”, he added.


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Professor Peter Wadhams, a Professor of ocean physics and head of the University’s Polar Ocean Physics Group, said that the potential downsides of these ideas should be assessed to see if they can be overcome, telling BBC News: “if we reduce our emissions all we are doing is making the global climate warmer a bit more slowly”.

A spokesperson for Cambridge Zero Carbon Society told Varsity that they “welcome the academic support for new environmental policy apparent in this initiative”, but warned that “technological ‘solutions’ to climate change frequently breed false hope in a ‘miracle cure’ for the problem, deferring substantive changes that are feasible and urgently needed”.

They called on the University to display “a deeper commitment to environmental justice by committing to full divestment”, and urged them to “reveal the details of funding for the new research centre”.

A formal launch of the centre is planned for autumn 2019.

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