Ghent University / Climate science
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I am Hendrik Wouters, researcher at Ghent University. I study the emergence of heat waves, drought and intense precipitation. I have participated in the latest climate report from the Flemish Environment Agency, for which I have developed future scenarios of the climate change and urban heat islands for Belgium.
In addition to being a researcher, I am also a father of 3 children, and I am very concerned about whether our children will have the same living standard in the future as we do now. However, the science is very clear: people are responsible for global heating because of our greenhouse gas emissions. The pace of change is unseen, and implies that plants and animals will undergo more and more extreme weather conditions. Our society is already experiencing the consequences of an increasing number of weather extremes. I also see this from my own research which indicates that the number of heat waves in Belgian cities will increase by a factor of 3 by 2040.
We need to limit the heating of our planet to 1.5°C in order to keep the consequences manageable. That is why I try to reduce my own CO2 emissions as much as possible by, for example, using the bicycle and public transport, avoiding meat, dairy, and plastic, buying local products, etc. Each of these choices instantly reduces my own ecological footprint, and I hope my actions inspire others to do the same. I notice, however, that it’s not always obvious to make the sustainable choices. For example, just a simple bike ride with my children to school is a very dangerous undertaking between busy car traffic, and it is a real quest to buy local and plastic-free products. So I realize that a real CO2-neutral society by 2050 can only become reality if our governments come up with an integrated climate plan with adjustments to infrastructure, mobility, spatial planning, food, taxation, etc. This should ensure that sustainable choices become the standard, and that new technologies against climate change can be deployed. Despite the efforts that are needed, I am convinced that such a plan will not only counter climate disruption, but will also further enhance our general standard of living.