Hans De Boeck / Researcher

Universiteit Antwerpen / Climate change impacts; climate extremes

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I conduct research on the impacts climate change has on ecosystems, also in conjunction with other global changes – such as biodiversity loss. When I’m at conferences, it is easy to get depressed because so many things are going the wrong way: not only are ecosystems faced with growing pressures from the changing climate, but their capacity to cope is also decreased due to landscape fragmentation, overexploitation, etc. Moreover, the concerns put forward by scientists regarding climate change have been ignored by politicians for too long. It is therefore very encouraging to see that the recent marches have put ‘climate’ firmly on the political agenda.
As for my own way of life, I do my daily commute by bike, even though the distance is considerable (25 km one way). It was my partner that, when she was new to the research group, convinced me this was feasible to do by bike as she had been cycling a similar distance to university every day as a student. I think it is important to not only talk the talk but also walk it. We are vegetarian, we have renovated our house to make it much more energy efficient, we buy mostly local foods, etc. Still, this is easier done if you have a good income, and that is one of the important issues in any green revolution: making sure that it is social too. Financial incentives for renovation and green energy production in Belgium have for instance mostly been used by the well-off, and this is not only inefficient, it is also unjust. Another difficulty is long-distance travel: while it is very enriching to travel to far-away places, it is also a growing source of greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. Solutions are not easy, but professionally, facilitating attending conferences via video should be developed and stimulated much more.
Finally, regarding what is needed to go forward in general (in my opinion): politicians should listen more to what scientists, specialists have to say. We are paid largely with public money – make sure that this benefits society. Therefore, please make use of us, our work, our expertise to help guide policies to tackle the challenges poses by climate change. This topic transcends business-as-usual and requires long-term thinking, reaching beyond the next election. No more time to waste, time for actual leadership.

Originally posted 2018-04-25 19:17:28.