University of Leeds Logo

Astronaut’s support for new climate centre

 June 3, 2016 | Simon Jenkins

An astronaut, alumnus and honorary graduate has given his backing to a new centre at Leeds which brings together expertise in the key strands of climate change research.

As a veteran of three Space Shuttle missions, Piers Sellers (PhD Biometeorology 1981 and Hon DSc 2007) is one of an elite group of people to have looked at the earth from afar, gaining a special perspective on the fragility of the planet.

And in a video message to mark the launch of the new Priestley International Centre for Climate, Dr Sellers says: “Some difficult decisions lie ahead for us humans. We should debate our options with the best information which science can provide. We need practical solutions to the problems which climate change will throw at us now and in the future. I expect the Priestley Centre to be at the heart of this.”

Led by Professor of Physical Climate Change Piers Forster, the Priestley Centre’s focus is on research partnerships to link our physical, technological, economic and social understanding of climate change with strategies for mitigation and adaptation. It is one of the University’s flagship investments, with more than £6 million being dedicated to the centre over the next five years. It is named after Yorkshire-born Joseph Priestley, an 18th century natural philosopher who discovered oxygen.

In honour of Dr Sellers’ work as a renowned climate scientist and in raising public awareness of global warming, the Centre has created two annual Piers Sellers prizes to recognise outstanding research in the field.

The inaugural Piers Sellers Prize for world-leading research was awarded to Dr Joeri Rogelj of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria. Dr Rogelj’s research examines the effects of staying below different global temperature targets.

The second prize, designed to reward current Leeds PhD students, went to Kate Scott from the School of Earth and Environment. Her research examines how consumer behaviour and government policies on industry and the environment, can be used best to mitigate climate change.