Professor Dame Jane Francis: “It’s really important that we take urgent action” on climate change

University of Leeds Chancellor and geologist reflects on her trips to Antarctica and how a big effort is needed to preserve its unique landscape.

In this video Professor Dame Jane Francis speaks about Antarctica, Climate Change and the University’s ambitious climate plan.

Professor Francis has been Director of the British Antarctic Survey since 2013 and has visited the continent several times as a geologist studying climates of the past. 

She described the experience as “absolutely amazing”, especially for the first time.

Professor Francis said: “Completely different from any other place on the planet, it really does leave you in awe of the beauty of the place.” 

Antarctica is one of the places on Earth which is suffering the effects of climate change the most. 

The University’s Climate Plan is helping us to plot a path to a fairer and more sustainable future for our institution and the world. 

Professor Francis said: “I’m really excited that the University has a Climate Plan to reach net zero by 2030. It’s about thinking a little bit differently, thinking outside the box. And that will involve everyone doing their bit to ensure that their footprint is less carbon intensive.” 

Antarctica at risk 

Recently, research from the University of Leeds found that between 1996 and 2021, the fastest changing area of Antarctica – known as the Amundsen Sea Embayment – lost 3,000 billion tonnes of ice. 

If all that lost ice was piled on London, it would stand over 2km tall.  

There are twenty glaciers in the Amundsen Sea Embayment – an area four times the size of the UK – which play a significant role in sea level change. 

On one visit to Antarctica, Professor Francis recalls, she split a rock to find the fossil of a leaf which dated back millions of years to when the South Pole was covered in forest. 

She added: “Maybe we’re going back to an Antarctica that’s green in the future if we don’t stop climate warming?” 

When teaching at Leeds, Professor Francis would talk about the future impact that climate change would cause – but that impact is happening now. 

“It’s really important that we take action,” Professor Francis explains. 

Watch a video of Professor Dame Jane Francis talking about how our local changes can have a global impact. 

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