Climate scientist wins environmental physics essay prize

28 May 2014

A look at how global warming could affect the UK in the next 20 years secured first prize for climate scientist Rachel White in an essay competition run by the IOP’s Environmental Physics Group (EPG)

Rachel White

The prizewinners were announced at the EPG’s Annual Environmental Physics Day on 21 May. Rachel, a research associate in atmospheric and ocean physics at Imperial College London, gave a summary of her essay by video at the event.

She described how a projected 0.75 C temperature rise could increase the likelihood of heatwaves, though the impact on the UK would be small, she argued. The intensity of heavy rainstorms could increase and though there would probably be small loss of life, the economic cost of improved flood defences and insuring property could be high, she said. Sea-level rise could also lead to “climate migration” of peoples around the globe, and climate change could affect food security and prices, she warned.

She received £200 in cash. The runners-up, who each received £100, were Toby Bryce-Smith, a Year 11 student at The Leys School, Cambridge, and Anne Gill, a Year 12 student, also at the Leys School. All three were also offered three months’ free membership of the IOP and of the EPG.

Toby, also speaking via video, argued for the UK to use home-grown technology to build small 100-200 MW nuclear reactors such as those that power nuclear submarines, instead of large-scale power stations such as Hinkley Point C. Anne, speaking at the event, described the mechanisms of global warming and its effects. She argued that it would bring increased risk of natural disasters such as avalanches, droughts and flooding, as well as wider proliferation of tropical diseases.

The prizewinning entries are available here