(Image credit: Climate Commission | flickr)
Professor Lesley Hughes is an ecologist by training and a valued Academic Member of the Big History Institute. Just last month, Lesley was appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) Integrity and Development and was also awarded the Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Australian Science Research, the country's most comprehensive national science award. These achievements recognise Lesley's extraordinary work in researching and communicating the science of climate change over the last 20 years.
Lesley has been a leading figure in international climate change research, and has served as the commissioner of the independent government advisory Climate Commission in 2011, and became a pro-bono founding councillor of the Climate Council of Australia in 2013. She was a lead author for the UN's IPCC Fourth and Fifth Assessment Reports.
Climate Change: "Nobody is safe"
Lesley is a passionate public communicator, who believes in active engagement with policy makers and the wider community. Recently Lesley has been featured on Scared Scientists, a project that seeks to raise awareness about climate change, and boost society's engagement with the major environmental issues that the world is facing today.
Lesley has been praised for her desire to communicate climate change science in accessible ways that can reach, and be understood by, a wide audience. In her career, she has discovered that catastrophising climate change science is counterproductive, and has shared her learnings with the broader scientific community, so that others in the field can share their research in logical, accessible, and understandable ways. "In climate change this is not just stepping outside the ivory tower, it's more like throwing oneself from the battlements," she says.
"I believe climate change is the most important challenge of our time - due to the risks it poses not just to our environment, but also to our economy, and the fabric of our society," explains Lesley. Her own research has primarily focused on the environmental issues created by the energy sector, which is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants. In 2013, the United Nations agreed on a Convention for mercury management, and Lesley's scientific research was an integral part of this important initiative.
Big History and the Future
Big History, according to Lesley, is about "looking to the future, but being mindful for the past." It's about "looking at the clues that the past gives us to find solutions to the future, as we encounter new challenges that are "outside the envelope of human experience."
Lesley's recent free, online course via Open University Australia explains the science of climate change in straightforward terms for non-scientists. The course even received praise from climate sceptics - for them, what had been lacking was a clear explanation of the science.
The Open Universities Course on Climate Change is free, and starts on the 20th of October 2014. Enrol now to learn more about how climate change will affect us, why we should care about it, and what solutions we can employ.