Public Lecture - Climate Change: how can mathematics help us to respond?

20 April 2020, 3pm

The University of Nottingham, Leverhulme Trust and KTN are supporting a public lecture by Professor Vicky Pope.

A recording of the talk is available here.


The Q&A session was very busy, and we were unable to cover all the questions in the time. Vicky, has kindly reviewed the questions and prepared responses. These are available here

Speaker: Professor Vicky Pope (UCL)

Title: Climate change how can mathematics help us to respond?

Abstract: When I say that I work on the science of climate change, I am often asked two questions. The first is whether I believe in climate change, which illustrates that there is still a poor understanding of what science is. It is about amassing and testing objective evidence, not belief, and this is manifested in the comprehensive reports that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change produce periodically. The second is whether we are doing enough? I answer that we have to start somewhere but that progress is not fast enough. We must also bear in mind that some solutions have problems of their own. We must look at the complete cost of solutions over their lifetimes and all the aspects of the impacts, not just climate change. This is the challenge for society – scientists, engineers and policymakers can help if they work together.

Improved information on weather and climate have been driven by the growth in scientific complexity and accuracy of integrated models of weather, climate and the ‘earth system’ enabled by the rapid growth of High Performance Computers. Alongside these developments better understanding about how information is used has enabled better communication and appropriate action on the information. Climate models are being used to make important choices about how much we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and what trade-offs there are likely to be between adapting to and mitigating the impacts of climate change. They have profound implications for the decisions that we make about future energy supply and other economic and technological development.

This lecture will provide a brief introduction to climate models and the mathematics that underpin them, and their role in the decision process. Climate models:

1. Underpin the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports to provide evidence for UN negotiations;

2. Start to address the complex linkages between problems, e.g. Air quality and climate change, food supply and biofuels;

3. Are used to produce the UK climate projections to enable forward planning to minimise the risks of climate change.


Prof Vicky Pope is a climate scientist specialising in climate modelling and providing science to help both governments and the general public to understand the implications of climate change. Her work has helped to provide the information that the government and others need to reduce the worst impacts of climate change. She has also helped to encourage evidence-based decisions on diverse issues including drought and the interaction between air quality and climate change.

Her current interests are very diverse, encouraging wider appreciation and protection of the environment and improved access to science and mathematics education. She is the Chair and trustee for a number of charities and an honorary professor at University College London. She is also Editor in Chief of a new interdisciplinary Climate Change journal

This event is supported as part of the Virtual Forum for Knowledge Exchange in the Mathematical Sciences.

Zoom is the online platform being used to deliver this seminar series. Any questions relating to the seminar, please contact