Aston University Presents Carbon Week: Day 1

As Julia King said, this was the first event of its kind and there were bound to be areas for improvement. In my last piece I said that my goal was to leave the event in a better position than when I arrived, and I feel like I achieved this.

The day had finally arrived.

After spending 19 years in a bubble of unawareness about climate change, I was about to have my bubble burst courtesy of Day 1 of Carbon Week.

If you've seen my previous blog post, you'll be familiar with the unique, 5-day event created by Aston University to help boost' graduate employability and give us students a real insight into climate change.

Looking at the timetable, I was pleasantly optimistic. The first day consisted of lecture-style talks, and there seemed to be a good balance between the science, political and business implications of climate change. There was even a bit of comedic relief in the form of Robin Ince, an English comedian who presents a popular BBC Radio 4 show about science.

Upon arriving at the Genting Arena, I was surprised to see how packed it was. With 2000+ students, plus another 200 or so guests, there were a lot more seats filled than I had expected. A very promising sign.

After a routine introduction from Reeta Chakrabarti, the BBC broadcaster hosting the event,

Carbon Week officially kicked off with Baroness (incorrectly spelt on the presentation - woops!) Julia King. I was surprised by the candour of the University's Vice Chancellor, who admitted that Carbon Week was a "giant experiment" - and we were the guinea pigs. It was brutally honest, so I was intrigued to see how the day played out.

After a short, pre-recorded video message from Ismail El Gizouli, an alumni of Aston University and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we were introduced to the national treasure of the day - Professor Keith Clarke.

Professor Keith Clarke of The Royal Academy of Engineering hit home straight away about the reality of climate change. Two degrees is the internationally-agreed target for limiting global warming. With a freshly brewed caramel latte in my hands, he explained that if we moved from a 2°C to a 4°C world, coffee will be a thing of the past, as we will no longer have adequate conditions to grow coffee beans. You know what that means? No more caramel lattes, no more Starbucks, and no more coffee and walnut cake!

The question I have been asking again and again about Carbon Week is how this is relevant to me. I don't study engineering and I'm not a science student. But what I realised is that the fact of the matter is whether it be in your professional or personal life, climate change is 100% going to impact us all.

Combining a striking resemblance to Sean Lock, and the ability to hold the attention of two thousand rowdy students, Prof. Keith ended with a well-deserved applause.

Next up was Kirsty Lewis from the Met Office, who focused her talk on the science behind climate change itself. I'll tell you now, my knowledge of science is rudimentary at best, and by the time average planetary temperatures and anthropogenic-something was being discussed, my brain was struggling to keep up. But to summarise Kirsty; climate is changing, humans are the cause, and we need to fix it pretty quickly.

After a short break, we were introduced to Caroline Spelman MP. Sadly, the majority of the audience didn't seem to engage with the political implications of climate change. Caroline's Question Time style interview with Reeta didn't cover much new ground, focusing mainly on what the UK Government has already achieved rather than what those of us in the room could do in the future. The main message of Carbon Week is that whoever you work for after graduation will have to take account of their impact on climate change, and this point was missed.

After Caroline came BBC journalist Clive Myrie, who proceeded to discuss the challenges of reporting on climate change. However, his talk seemed primarily to consist of criticising Fox News and subtly promoting the BBC. He did enforce the seemingly inaccurate representation of climate change in the media though, highlighting that in 2013, a dismal 29% of Fox News scientific data was accurate.

Following a long-awaited lunch break, most of us dutifully returned to our seats, and for anyone that went home early - you missed out. We were treated to some much-needed comical relief by Robin Ince. His anecdotal, informal style of presenting was a completely different tone from the speakers before him, and I think this was why his talk was the most enjoyable. Judging by the laughs around the room and the rowdy applause, I wasn't the only one that thought so.

The event ended with top industry professionals discussing the impact of climate change on our generation. There were some interesting messages from all the panellists, but the highlight was Aston favourite Prof. Keith, who was greeted to a raucous applause and a series of wolf whistles when he took his seat.

As Julia King said, this was the first event of its kind and there were bound to be areas for improvement. In my last piece I said that my goal was to leave the event in a better position than when I arrived, and I feel like I achieved this.

Finally, if you didn't attend the event, check out #carbonweek on Twitter. Not only was it TRENDING at around 4pm after the event ended, but there are some absolutely cracking tweets that brought all of us students together as one big, Aston family.

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