Sara Vicca / Post doc

University of Antwerp / Biology

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My research focuses on the interaction between global change and natural ecosystems: how does global change affect land ecosystems, and how do ecosystem responses to global change influence climate? Land ecosystems sequester about 30% of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, thus retarding climate change. However, this land carbon sink is under pressure, among others by the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme events. This is concerning, because a decrease in the land carbon sink implies that climate change will accelerate even more, and can even become self-reinforcing when it converts the natural sinks into sources of carbon.
Generally speaking, I am especially concerned about the cascade of effects related to climate change, ranging from crossing tipping points in the Earth system, to extreme weather events such as droughts and floods that lead to social disorder, migration and war.
Adapting an ecological lifestyle, has become second nature to me and my family. Our house is equipped with solar panels, providing even slightly more electricity than we use, and we invested in insulation to reduce energy use for heating. I financially support a local energy cooperative that executes projects for sustainable energy production and improved energy efficiency. We don’t own a car and so we use the bike and public transport most of the time, we avoid meat and preferably use locally grown vegetables, and like to grow some ourselves.
I also invest in raising awareness about climate change and environmental problems, among others by writing blogs and giving lectures to the general public.
Reducing my own ecological footprint, I encounter several difficulties. For example, alternatives for the car are often not sufficiently available. Even worse are the alternatives for the airplane. Another example concerns plastics, which are almost impossible to avoid.
Scientific evidence is clear: emissions need to be reduced urgently and drastically to avoid dangerous climate change. The necessary transition to a carbon neutral society will require strong action at all levels, including energy production, mobility, housing, industry, agriculture. A rapid and drastic transition can only be achieved if policy makers put in place the right incentives and policy measures, taking into account socio-economic side effects to make it a socially just transition. In fact, I think policy should take this as an opportunity to improve not only our climate, but to transition towards a more sustainable society. The sustainable development goals can provide the necessary guidance for this.