Professor Alice Larkin

Professor of Climate Science & Energy Policy

I have been working as a researcher in the Tyndall Centre for over 10 years, and have a great passion for researching issues around how to cut CO2 emissions, and how to engage with policy and decision makers around issues of climate change mitigation and energy use.

Background

I took a lectureship in 2008 and now also lecture on the civil engineering programme, as well as to MSc students studying ‘Renewable Energy & Clean Technology’.   As a post-doctoral researcher, I was looking for a research-focussed and interdisciplinary opportunity that had wider policy engagement. The group ‘Tyndall Manchester’ within the University offered me such a chance. – it is a fantastic mix of social scientists, engineers and physical scientists, all working to on issues of climate change mitigation.   

Research

My research is interdisciplinary with a strong quantitative focus, building on my physics and climate modelling background.  I generally research on issues that are broad and put some of the more specific analysis into context. For example, I would interpret what the global climate commitment to avoiding a 2°C temperature rise for the international shipping system, or the UK’s food system. 

Management and administration take a lot of my day-to-day time. I am the institutional PI for a large consortium project, investigating how trade may be impacted by climate change. This requires a lot of organising of project meetings and conferences, as well as directly and overseeing research activity, helping to place it in the wider context. I also teach throughout the year, with a focus on the MSc programme REACT in the first semester and summer, and Sustainable Waste Management undergraduate course in the 2nd Semester.  I am also one of the senior co-directors in the Tyndall Manchester research team, again contributing to overseeing its strategic direction with relevance to research. However, when I do find the time, I continue to pursue my own research ideas, as well as lead a network establishing links between food-related research activity across the University (food.manchester.ac.uk). I lead the network called ‘food@manchester’ where we are hoping to better connect researchers across the faculty working on very different aspects of food – from diet to climate change. In addition, the majority of my research involves industry and policy stakeholders from the start – not just as an audience at the end-point. This helps to raise the profile of the work as well grounding it in ‘real world’ barriers, constraints and opportunities.   Writing, researching and engaging with the policy agenda are what I enjoy the most, but I have little time to do this. Our remit to engage with policy making, and advise and inform the policy making process is hugely important when considering issues of such societal interest as climate change. 

Future

I think if the UK Government took its own climate commitments more seriously, and engaged with the quantitative scale of the challenge, this would drive a whole new policy agenda around how to radically cut CO2 emissions in the short term. This is a need dictated by the fact that CO2 emissions last a long time, and hence cutting the cumulative emissions, not just the emissions in the longer term, is critical for avoiding a 2°C warming.

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