In 1896 a Swedish scientist named Svante August Arrhenius wrote a paper called “On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Earth” [1]. In this paper Arrhenius calculated that doubling atmospheric CO2 (from 1890 levels) would cause warming of 5–6 degrees Celsius*. He also noted that human emissions of carbon (at the time, primarily coal burning) would eventually lead to warming**.

Let that sink in. It’s been 125 years since the world first learnt about the greenhouse effect — it is still happening.

By 1958 we were reliably able to get precise measurements of…


President Kennedy’s famous “we choose to go to the Moon” speech is remembered now as a powerful, pivotal moment which was successful in rallying the American people to get behind the moon landing mission [1]. What is less remembered is that, at the time, there was widespread disquiet about the enormous cost of the project, with many people unsure about what value it would bring.

A difficult, enormously expensive mission, which hopes to deliver in the future, but which funnels government funding away from other areas which need funding right now, and with no guarantee of success…sound familiar?

Tackling climate…


When the world experiences a crisis which is global, has the ability to cause suffering to anyone and whose solution requires a significant behaviour change it is inevitable that comparisons will be drawn to climate change.

People seeking to make sense of the coronavirus crisis will ask what lessons can be learned which might help us reduce the impacts of climate change; a far bigger crisis. We want simple narratives; we want reasons why. …


I spent the weekend before the world stopped in a small village on Scotland’s north east coast. I was there to interview locals for my postgraduate dissertation about communities, land rights and climate change.

I hadn’t expected so many of our conversations to be on the topic of a global pandemic, but so much of the last few weeks has been unexpected, to put it mildly. …


Last Friday, I decided to make the most of having a study day at home by going for a lunchtime run in the Pentland Hills, 20 minutes from my home in Edinburgh. I had been itching to get out to the Pentlands all week, longingly checking the West Kip webcam from the Mountain Weather Information Service, which gave me a tantalizing glimpse of hills blanketed with snow and a winter wonderland which has been so slow to arrive this year. …


“I hear they had quite a hard frost in Sussex this morning”

“Oh wow, really?”

Was how a conversation with my father started on Christmas Day, 2018. A Christmas Day which, like the previous year, was more mild and damp than crisp and even.

It indicates something remarkable about our ability as humans to adapt and get used to new ‘normals’ that on the 25th December — a day that is typified in films, songs and card shops around the world as snowy and cold — the fact that some areas of the U.K. experienced frost was worthy of note…


Recently, I’ve been having conversations with climate (change) experts — scientists, writers, policy makers.

These conversations have been wide-ranging, we’ve talked about specific policies, emerging climate science, the latest on Brexit…but I’ve always made sure to ask one question:

“Are you optimistic about climate change?”

The response is always the same: a sigh and a pause. Sometimes with a bit of nervous laughter thrown in.

I ask this question because sometimes as a sector we can be very good at avoiding the truth. I don’t mean that we sugarcoat things, or gloss over anything. No, we talk a lot about…


When I first starting learning about the processes by which human activity is altering the climate, back in primary school, it was almost exclusively called ‘global warming’ and this will have been the case for most people.

There was then a notable switch and ‘climate change’ became the term most commonly used. For a time I believed that ‘global warming’ was actually a misnomer, and shouldn’t be used at all. But more recently I’ve seen the two terms used together, for different reasons.

So what is the difference?

Global warming is the process by which the average temperature of the…


The easiest way to think about “global warming” is not in terms of temperature increase but in terms of a global energy increase.

The world, on average, has already seen around a 1 degree increase since pre-industrial times. This is not a uniform rise and some areas (hello, Arctic!) have warmed more than others, sometimes significantly more.

The special report from the IPCC released at the start of October 2018 has made headlines as it starkly outlines that we are on course to hit 1.5 degrees of warming between 2030 and 2050. You might think, huh well, an extra .5…

Lucy Stanfield

Thinking and writing about climate change and the outdoors

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