Quaker scientist has papers published on greenhouse gases and climate change

Quaker scientist, Richard Tuckett, has just had two peer-reviewed papers published on the science of greenhouse gases and climate change.

The first paper is based on Richard’s academic career as a high-resolution gas-phase spectroscopist studying upper atmosphere ‘greenhouse gas’ molecules.  The paper identifies the greenhouse effect of particular molecules and, in particular, the way in which although carbon dioxide and methane are the most significant greenhouse gases, other gases are potentially more powerful and long-lived.

For a physical scientist, the second paper is ground breaking as it refers to Richard being a Quaker, and the normal convention that issues of morality and religion are not discussed in an academic paper is set aside.  In this paper Richard discusses the levels of future carbon dioxide emissions that are compatible with containing the increase in global average temperatures to ‘well below’ 2 degrees C in terms of issues that are (a) easy, (b) moderately difficult, and (c) incredibly difficult to solve.

The first paper is a lead article for the 3rd edition of Encyclopaedia of Analytical Science (2019) to be published by Elsevier.  The second is also published by Elsevier in their reference module Earth Systems Environmental Sciences.

Abstracts are shown below. The full papers can be accessed by emailing a request to lowcarbon@centralenglandquakers.org.uk. The second paper is particularly pertinent to the Society of Friends.

Richard is Emeritus Professor and Quaker Chaplain at the University of Birmingham and a member of Cotteridge Quaker local meeting.

He has given many talks on greenhouse gases to students and young people, including Global Warming and Climate Change: Thoughts of a Quaker scientist, and Quaker Footsteps and Young People  at a Veggie Rescue Day at Selly Oak Quaker meeting house.

Richard’s original interest in spectroscopy was inspired by science teachers at Bootham School.


Abstract for Greenhouse Gases

The subjects of what constitutes a greenhouse gas, and what the term greenhouse effect means are reviewed.  The greenhouse effect comprises two parts; the primary effect which has been in existence for thousands of years and gives Planet Earth its hospitable average temperature of c. 17°C, and the smaller secondary effect which has been in existence for only 250–300 years and is caused by an increase in concentration of greenhouse gases.  Much of this increase is probably due to mankind’s activities on the planet.  It is the latter effect that has caused the temperature of Planet Earth to increase by c. 1°C since the middle of the 19th century and, following the Paris 2015 COP21 convention, it is hoped the increase can be limited to 1.5 to 2.0°C by the end of this century.  The two most significant secondary greenhouse gases are CO2 and CH4, and together they contribute c. 80%–85% of the secondary effect.  This percentage has not changed for the last 20–30 years, but the total radiative forcing which causes the increase in the planet’s temperature has increased consistently over this time window.  Despite a few unexplained observations and inconsistencies, the huge majority of the world’s scientists now accept that the increase in Planet Earth’s temperature, or global warming, is real, and will have a disastrous impact on our ecosystem and environment unless everyone can adapt their lifestyles.

Abstract for Climate change and global warming: what can we do, what should we do?

The evidence that anthropogenic carbon emissions are contributing to the increasing temperature of the Earth grows stronger by the year.  Whilst impossible to prove, it is suggested that the correlation between CO2 concentrations and the temperature of the planet is as strong as it ever can be.  It follows that actions both by individuals and governments around the world are needed now to protect everyone against the rising temperatures that are almost inevitable.  CH4 could prove to be as serious a secondary greenhouse gas as CO2.  Possible changes in legislation and adaptions to lifestyle are suggested for the UK.  At a global level and in the hope that such subjects are brought into the open, charging for excess use of carbon, food and its production, and levels of population in the world are discussed.