Queen's Lecture 2019

Professor Corinne Le Quéré: „The interactions between climate change and the carbon cycle and the future we choose“

The Queen's Lecture 2019 took place on Monday, 11 November 2019 in TU Berlin's Audimax.

The year 2019 will be remembered as the year the world woke up to the climate crisis – and it’s about time! Climate change is unfolding as predicted by scientists repeatedly and consistently over the past thirty years at least. We can now see the changes with our own eyes, and the impacts look a lot scarier in reality than on paper. But just how did we get here, and what comes next?

This lecture presents the scientific basis for climate change through the lenses of the natural carbon cycle. It shows how emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from human activities have caused the planet to warm, and have set in motion a train of changes in the natural carbon cycle. Every year, the land and ocean natural carbon reservoirs, the so-called carbon ‘sinks’, absorb 55% on average of the CO2 emissions we release in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and other activities. The carbon sinks slow down the rate of climate change, but they themselves respond to a changing climate, by leaving more CO2 in the atmosphere. The latest evidence on trends in emissions and carbon sinks of the past 60 years, reveals the limits of our understanding and the challenges we face to develop a planetary monitoring system that can keep track of the rapidly changing carbon cycle.

Recording of the livestreaming event

© PR/TU Berlin

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The lecture incorporates in the science of climate change and how it interacts with the carbon cycle, with the evolving relationship between scientists and society during the past decades. It details the growing momentum of global political leadership emerging to tackle climate change, the challenges that we face, and offer reflections on ways to bring about the future we choose.

Corinne Le Quéré is Royal Society Research Professor of Climate Change Science at the University of East Anglia. She is a member of the UK Committee on Climate Change and in France chair of the related Le Haut Conseil pour le climat. 

The Queen's Lectures are supported by the British Embassy and the British Council Germany.

The lecture was held in English.

About the speaker

Corinne Le Quéré is Royal Society Research Professor at the University of East Anglia. She conducts research on the interactions between climate change and the carbon cycle. Her research has showed that climate change and variability affect the capacity of the Earth's natural carbon reservoirs to take up carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere by human activities.

Professor Le Quéré instigated and led for 13 years the annual update of the global carbon budget, an international effort to inform global climate agreements. She was author of three assessment reports produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, and is former Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

Professor Le Quéré is Chair of France's High Council on climate, an independent expert body that advises the French Government on its responses to climate change, and member of the UK Committee on Climate Change. She was elected Fellow of the UK Royal Society (FRS) in 2016 and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2019 for services to climate change science.

Interview with Corinne Le Quéré