We currently live in an age of great acceleration, within which we are witnessing technological development at an unprecedented rate and on an unprecedented scale. However, such development does not come without cost to the Earth system. Since the advent of the industrial and agricultural revolutions in the 1700s, advancement in technology and anthropogenic activity has resulted in the emission of a range of air quality and climate pollutants to the atmosphere. Following release, these pollutants have been able to perturb the natural chemical and radiative balance of our Earth’s atmosphere, causing a range of negative impacts on a range of scales, from the ‘pea-souper’ air pollution smogs of the 1950s, and stratospheric ozone depletion at the end of the last century, to rising global temperatures and climate change today.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that poor air quality cuts average global life expectancy by ~ two years, and that air pollution is now the fourth highest risk factor for premature deaths worldwide (i.e. ~8-million deaths per year), with 91per cent of the world’s population living in areas exceeding WHO air pollution limits. Air pollutants also have major negative impacts on both built and natural environments, causing damage to buildings and heritage features, and flora and fauna, alike. Furthermore, emissions of so-called ‘greenhouse gas’ air pollutants are (with 95 per cent probability) forcing a change in global climate, raising average global temperature, which in turn leads to many serious consequences, e.g. more frequent extreme weather events and natural disasters, rising sea levels and ocean acidification.
Air pollution and climate change are the defining issues of our generation; they are global issues that affect every one of us, they are transboundary and cross-sectorial, and to address them and their impacts, they require international cooperation and interdisciplinary collaboration. Brighton Futures: Atmosphere, Climate and Sustainability aims to help foster collaborations and research and enterprise activities to investigate the fundamental mechanics of the Earth’s atmosphere and climate; to design and develop prevention and mitigation strategies for the impacts of air pollution and climate change on human health, society and the built and natural environments; and to develop and promote sustainability in society and industry to reduce anthropogenic impacts on the Earth’s atmosphere and climate.
Key concerns span the disciplines, with example including:
- Air quality and its impacts on health and the environment
- Atmospheric greenhouse gases, prevalence and impacts
- Developing remote sensing strategies to monitor global change
- Renewable energy, technology and implementation
- Clean fuels in the automotive industry
- Impacts of climate change on the natural environment
- Climate change adaptation and resilience in the built environment and in town and countryside planning
- Civil engineering adaptations, e.g. coastal defence design
- Impacts of climate change on forced migration
- Climate change impacts and social injustice
- Climate change impacts on tourism