This Future Research Leader project aims to increase understanding of the representations and power of visual imagery for engaging people with climate change. Every day, images evoking climate change are created and made meaningful in the public arena. These images influence our thoughts and feelings about the climate issue, and can even influence our policy choices on climate change. But images are not neutral. Images (or particular types of images) which gain dominance promote particular ways of knowing about climate change, whilst marginalising others. These insights are important, as particular ways of knowing about climate change support (or inhibit) particular science-society-policy interactions. Yet little research critically examines the visual representations of climate change in either mass or new media; or how the power of visual images can be used to engage people with climate change. The project builds on a pilot project undertaken by the PI. First, climate change images were collected from US, UK and Australian newspapers over a year, and thematically analysed. The analysis identified broad patterns in coverage across all newspapers, with visuals dominated by identifiable people, or by images of climate protest, climate impacts or the causes of climate change. There is very little imagery of climate solutions - such as images of renewable energy, food production or consumption, householder mitigation, or community adaptation. These newspapers images contribute to a dominant framing of climate change as contested and politicised, and as an issue distant to everyday practice and experience. Imagery which empowers, ignites deeper debate or opens up spaces for creating future visions is rare. In the second pilot phase, a subset of these images were used in a series of workshops in Australia, the UK and the US to explore public engagement with climate imagery. The results indicate that the very images that most disengage are the ones most featured in the mass media; and that images which do promote feelings of issue importance, or a sense of being able to act, are the ones least featured. The Future Research Leader project will build on this analysis in an interdisciplinary, internationally-comparative and multi-phase fashion to: Part A: collect and critically analyse a diverse corpus of visual imagery: (i) from UK, US and Australian mass media sources in a longitudinal study (2000 - 2011) (ii) from new media sources (using innovative new media tools) Part B: explore how participant-created images can engage and empower people to imagine different climate futures, in the context of adaptation to sea-level rise. The project makes links to international research leaders in the social dimensions of climate change, through the project partner (University of Melbourne) and the two projects collaborators (University of Colorado-Boulder and American University). Outcomes from Part A include a critical understanding of how climate change imagery is used in public fora; of interest to academics, practitioners and policy makers working in public engagement with climate change. Part B will contribute to improved methods of decision-making in adaptation, an outcome of interest to international academic and policy communities. As well as dissemination through national and international collaborative visits and conference presentations, the project will draw together emerging research in this nascent area through an interdisciplinary conference panel on 'Visualising Climate Change'; with papers presented at the session intended for a journal Special Issue. Results will be communicated beyond academic audiences through the project website and blog, and through a public exhibit 'Seeing the Climate'. The project will contribute to an emerging research area in the environmental social sciences, strengthening the PI's position as a future research leader in the social science of climate change.
The climate is warming, and this is predicted to result in an increase in extremes of temperatures. Understanding how this will affect the survival and distribution of organisms is vital if we are to prevent massive losses of species, and invasion by harmful pests. The impacts of climate change are often estimated by examining the temperatures that kill animals. However, this may be flawed. In most animals, from beetles to birds to badgers, males typically lose their fertility at a far lower temperature than that required to kill them. If increasing temperatures cause all the males in a population to become sterile, then that population will not survive, even if the temperatures are nowhere near high enough to actually kill any animals. Unfortunately, there has been very little systematic investigation of this, so we do not know whether this possible impact of increasing temperatures on male fertility really is likely to be a threat to nature. We will rectify this situation by examining the impact of ecologically relevant high temperatures on fertility in male Drosophila fruit flies. We focus initially on a model species, D. pseudoobscura, to provide a detailed examination of how temperature impacts on fertility. We will determine the impact of high temperature and extreme temperature shocks on male fertility, and whether cooler night time temperatures can restore fertility. In many insects and reptiles, after mating with a male, females may store sperm for weeks, months or even years. In some cases the females are better at maintaining the sperm at extreme temperatures than the males are, as male insects of many species often die quicker than females in harsh environments. We will examine whether female sperm storage can ameliorate the impacts of temperature on male fertility. Most importantly, this study on D. pseudoobscura will allow us to work out standard techniques to evaluate these impacts of temperature on male fertility generally. With the knowledge gained from this case study, we will then examine how temperature impacts on fertility in a panel of 50 Drosophila species, carefully chosen to cover a range of lifestyles, habitats and temperatures, including tropical species, temperate species, and species that have spread worldwide. Most importantly, all these species are really well known, with excellent data about the climates they live in, and the temperatures they can survive in the laboratory. We will work out the fertility impacts in all 50 species, and then be able to correlate this with the distributions of the species. If the fertility data predicts the climates where the species are found in nature better than the high temperature fatality data other people have already collected, then we will know that male fertility really does impact on where species can survive in nature. We should also begin to be able to predict which groups it is particularly likely to be important for. For example, we might find that species where males mate many times in their lives, in which males typically have large testes and produce huge numbers of sperm, may be better able to remain fertile at extreme temperatures. Species where males typically mate only a few times in their lives may easily be rendered infertile. Alternatively, species restricted to areas where temperatures vary very little (such as rainforests) may be particularly vulnerable to temperature extremes, whereas species that regularly encounter rapidly changing temperatures may remain fertile even in extreme conditions.
The radioactive decay of uranium incorporated in natural carbonates (e.g. corals and stalagmites) provides a powerful way of dating these materials. Such U-Th techniques extend to about half a million years ago and provide the major way in which we can learn about the timing of past climate and environmental change. Over the past 15 years there has been considerable improvement in our ability to measure U and Th isotope ratios and concentrations resulting in a reduction of U-Th age uncertainties by an order of magnitude. Uncertainties are now as low as 0.1%, or 100 years in the age of fossil coral or speleothem that is 100,000 years old. This increase in precision has enabled a wide and expanding range of questions to be answered and is critical to our understanding of the mechanisms of Pleistocene climate and sea-level change. But it has also exposed a problem. Calibration of the tracer solutions used to make U and Th measurements is performed independently in each laboratory using differing techniques and it has become abundantly clear that resulting U-Th ages, while impressively precise, do not agree at this level of precision from one lab to another. There is now inter-laboratory bias at a level that exceeds typical quoted age uncertainty. The cause of this inter-laboratory uncertainty is due to a lack of suitable materials for both calibration purposes and for long-term assessment inter-laboratory agreement. One of the most widely used materials for such calibration, HU-1, has recently been demonstrated to vary, by up to 0.5% between the solutions used in different laboratories. And there exists no widely distributed and well characterised 'age standards' that could be analysed by all of the U-Th laboratories to facilitate quantification of inter-laboratory agreement. We propose a series of actions to address these short fallings in the international U-Th chronology community. We will develop a series of U-Th calibration solutions who's composition is known from first principles metrology (i.e. from the weighing and dissolution of high-purity U and Th metal). We will use these solutions to calibrate the tracers used in three UK and one overseas laboratories - each with a well established reputation for U-Th work. We will then proceed to do develop four different 'age solutions' by taking the U and Th isotopes and mixing them together in proportions that mimic typical compositions analysed by the community. The composition of these 'age solutions' will be measured using the newly and precisely calibrated tracers, so that all compositions will be known and traceable to basic measurements of mass. These 'age solutions' will also be made freely available to all U-Th laboratories who request them worldwide, and we will produce enough of the solutions so that they will last the community 20 years. We will co-ordinate an inter-laboratory comparison exercise so that, for the first time, we will be able to quantify the level to which dates produced in different laboratories agree. As a community we will want to ensure that the level of inter-laboratory variation is minimised, so if labs find their results to be inaccurate they will be able to use the age-solutions, whose compositions are well known, to improve the accuracy of their results. There is very widespread support for this effort in the international U-Th community and we have letters of support from 33 laboratories - the vast majority of all such laboratories worldwide. There are also limitations with the mathematical treatment of U-Th data used to produce dates. Our proposed analytical efforts will be made in concert with the development of these new data reduction template. Overall, these activities will provide dramatic and permanent increase in the reliability of U-Th dates of carbonates - the dates on which so much of our knowledge of Pleistocene climate is based.