Two University of Reading undergraduate students took a leading role in producing the first-ever localised climate and health report of its kind, highlighting progress and areas for improvement in Reading.
The Reading Countdown report was co-produced by Professor Robinson and Dr Claudia Di Napoli at Reading, and Dr Shouro Dasgupta from the CMCC and Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy – all of whom are in the first working group of the Lancet Countdown, the global report which inspired the Reading version – and Reading undergraduate students James Baldock and Daniel Piears.
Daniel and James took leading roles in the report through the University’s UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Placement) scheme, which gives students the chance to work on real and impactful research projects alongside their studies.
They produced the written report and created the accompanying graphs to illustrate the main findings more clearly. Both students also gave presentations at the online launch of the report to kickstart the University’s involvement in the Reading Climate Festival (9-15 November).
Professor Robinson said: “In Reading, the impacts of climate change on human health may not be so visible, but they are already being felt, harming people’s livelihoods, and putting increased pressure on our local public health services. The strain of climate-related health problems diverts resources that could be spent treating other illnesses and diseases.”
Among the findings were carbon dioxide emissions from traffic have decreased far less in Reading than from other sources and are linked with rising numbers of deaths locally from respiratory diseases, making air quality a potentially urgent area to address. It also found that more frequent heatwaves are posing a threat to Reading’s growing older population.
Daniel, an Archaeology student, said: “That we are writing this report in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic only highlights the need for a better understanding of the links between climate change and health, and the contribution that towns and cities can make to climate change mitigation. This has benefits not only for the health of people locally, but contributes to that of the global population.”
James, a Human and Physical Geography student, said: “With limited time and budget, and constrained by Covid-19, we recognise that this report cannot be a fully comprehensive assessment of the current impacts of climate and associated health risks in Reading. However, we hope that this report will inspire others to contribute to and expand on our first Reading Countdown for public health and climate change.”
The report was prepared as a contribution to the Reading Climate Action Network, a collaboration between individuals, organisations and businesses working to actively improve the town’s response to climate change and the challenges it brings. For more information on the study, read the full report.
University committed to sustainability
The University of Reading has made significant progress in reducing its own carbon footprint in recent years, and is on course to surpass its target of a 45% carbon reduction by 2021.
Experts at the University are also taking a leading role in setting out a vision for a smarter and more sustainable Reading, by co-chairing the Reading Climate Change Partnership and editing a book outlining how the town could look by 2050.