Imagine your global warming graphic showing up in the Olympics!

Now, this might be a fairly strenuous link between Science and the Olympics. It might seem totally out of place. It kind of isn’t, but it might be. You might question it, but don’t worry yourself with that.

The opening ceremony for the Rio 2016 Olympics included a strong environmental message, which some people found heavy-handed.

One section immediately preceding the athletes’ parade showed the impact carbon emissions were having on the world, as well as models predicting cities such as Amsterdam, Dubai, Lagos, Shanghai, and Rio de Janeiro being flooded.

Featured in this was a graphic of rising global temperatures since the 19th century that Dr Ed Hawkins, climate scientist at the University of Reading, recognised as being very similar to one he tweeted earlier this year.

science things.png

Ed Hawkins

Hawkins’ original gif has been retweeted 15,000 times, and popularised using spirograph visualisations to illustrate climate change.

He said it was “quite a shock” to see his gif shown on big screens in the Maracanã Stadium, as well as being broadcast to millions of TV viewers around the world.

Twitter / Via Twitter: @ed_hawkins

While he joked on Twitter about not receiving a royalty cheque, he said it was “fantastic” that the opening ceremony organisers chose to highlight the dangers of climate change in this way.

“It is a truly global issue which will affect all nations and requires strong international collaboration to understand and tackle,” Hawkins added.

Explaining why his original visualisation, which uses Met Office data, mattered, he explained: “For the original gif, I wanted to try and visualise changes in global temperatures in different ways to learn about how we might improve our communication. The spiral presents the information in a straightforward way which appears to resonate with people.

“The pace of change is immediately obvious, especially over the past few decades. The relationship between current global temperatures and the internationally discussed target limits are also clear without much complex interpretation needed.”

See, not quite as strenuous as you were expecting. The fact that Global Warming has been highlighted at the Olympics is extremely significant. Significant because why are we talking environmental issues at a celebration of sport? It’s growing impact and importance that we know how to deal with it is of course prime reason. To find out more, check out our Environmental Courses here at The Sheffield College.


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