Dr Cat Scott

Dr Cat Scott, University Academic Fellow in the School of Earth and Environment, was seconded to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Her remit was to work with the BEIS Climate Science Team to help translate academic research into usable information for policies.

Dr Scott’s research explores interactions between the biosphere and the atmosphere and the roles that trees and forests play in altering the composition of the air around us.

Policy makers at BEIS were keen to enhance understanding on how agriculture and land use change could contribute to the UK’s ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

Under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, farmers are paid subsidies broadly in line with the amount of land that they own. As the UK leaves the European Union, and so the Common Agricultural Policy, the government has expressed interest in bringing in a scheme which will reward land owners for having enhanced ‘public goods’, such as landscape, air and water quality. Part of this will involve policies that encourage an increase in the amount of carbon being stored on land in the UK, for example, by enabling carbon capture by planting trees and peat restoration.

This is a complex matter with lots of different policy options to consider. So, one of Dr Scott’s main tasks was to use existing research and draw on her expertise in carbon cycling to create a simple spreadsheet tool which will help colleagues at BEIS to understand which policies could have the biggest impact and potentially work well together in the UK.

Added value

Aside from the land use project, Dr Scott also had the opportunity to help BEIS design a research project into the climate impacts of using hydrogen as a low-carbon energy and heat source. A review of the scientific literature, previously commissioned by BEIS, highlighted some gaps in our knowledge in terms of the potential impacts on climate and air quality of having extra hydrogen in the atmosphere.

Dr Scott presented, to the BEIS Research Committee, the case for a research project to look into this issue using state-of-the-science atmospheric chemistry-climate models. The Committee approved the project, allowing it to proceed to contract, ensuring that decisions on the sustainability of a future hydrogen economy will be based on appropriate evidence.

Dr Scott plans to continue her relationship with the Department by arranging for UK university scientists to contact BEIS to discuss results from the latest global climate simulations.

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