Glastonbury painting

In support of Professor Betts’s talk, artist Erica Nockalls was asked to paint Glastonbury under extreme weather conditions (image copyright Erica Nickalls

Top scientist to talk climate change at Glastonbury

Glastonbury festivalgoers can look forward to a heady mix of Ed Sheeran, Foo Fighters, Katy Perry – and a lesson on climate change from a top scientist.

At the festival’s Speaker’s Forum, Professor Richard Betts, of the University of Exeter, will discuss the science of climate change and take part in panel discussions and interviews with other prominent figures in the climate change debate.

“Climate change is a complex topic with some important and fascinating science behind it,” says Professor Betts.

“As we continue the debate on what to do about it, it’s important to have the discussions informed by the latest scientific understanding.”

Following a talk on climate science and human health impacts on Friday morning, he will join a panel discussion that evening with the CEOs of Greenpeace UK and Friends of the Earth UK, the co-leader of the Green Party Jonathan Bartley and the Labour MP for Norwich South, Clive Lewis.

On the Sunday, he will be “In Conversation” with the BBC’s Environment Analyst, Roger Harrabin. 

Professor Betts intends to cut through the clamour of alarm and scepticism to explain the current situation.

“I will give a balanced scientific view which is clear that the extremes of climate change denial and alarmism are both wrong,” he says.

“We can’t deny that we humans are having an effect on our climate, but we also need to be level-headed and not assume that catastrophe is imminent and unavoidable, as is sometimes suggested – there is still hope.

“I try to push back against polarisation. With big, complex issues requiring individual and political action, most people have something to bring to the discussion if you conduct it in the right way.”

Professor Betts will also speak at Bluedot music, science and arts festival at the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire on 8 July, addressing the question: “Can we live with a warming planet?” 

“The answer depends on your definition of ‘live’,” he says. “In terms of survival, humans are not going to die out due to climate change in the next few decades.

“But that doesn’t mean there aren’t very real consequences in terms of – for example – threats to food supplies or danger to coastal settlements and islands from rising sea levels.

“There are clear threats to our way of life, and I’ll talk about how we can adapt to the changes we will inevitably see.”

Professor Betts, who is on Twitter @richardabetts, added: “The short answer to my question – ‘can we live with a warming planet?’ – is the same as the answer to any other complex scientific question: It’s complicated!”

One of Glastonbury’s headline acts is Radiohead, whose lead singer and guitarist Thom Yorke studied at the University of Exeter and has frequently called for action to combat climate change.

Date: 21 June 2017