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Beyond global mean warming: pathways to achieve multiple climatic targets

Project Description

Project Rationale:
Reducing the extent and impacts of climate change is a defining issue of the 21st century. The goals of the UN Paris Climate Agreement are framed in terms of restricting the warming of global mean surface air-temperatures to below 2°C. However, there are many climate impacts beyond global mean warming: some regions will warm significantly more than the global average, including the Arctic; rising sea levels will affect coastal communities and increase the frequency sea-level extremes (Nicholls et al., 2018); and marine biological systems will be affected by ocean warming and acidification .

The problem is that to restrict the likelihood of dangerous climate change future scenarios must use limited current knowledge to balance multiple priorities, not just global mean warming. A recent study presented a novel approach to achieve a given climate target in the future: Goodwin et al (2018) presented self-adjusting emissions scenarios, where ongoing observations are used to automatically adjust emission recommendations to reach the desired climate target. However, so far these self-adjusting scenarios only consider a single climate target: global mean warming. This project will extend this approach, designing new scenarios considering multiple climatic targets that reduces the likelihood of dangerous climate change.

The student will build on the self-adjusting future emissions pathways of Goodwin et al (2018), expanding to produce a new pathways approach to achieve multiple climate targets.

First, a range of different climatic targets will be identified to minimize the risk of dangerous climate change occurring across physical, chemical and biological systems (Goodwin et al., 2018; Nicholls et al, 2018; Mace et al., 2014). Second, a ‘Climate Target Index’ will be developed, to assign relative importance to the different climatic targets and minimize the likelihood of dangerous climate change. Third, a range of mitigation strategies will be explored to identify those that give the most likelihood of achieving all climatic targets.

The Warming Acidification and Sea level Projector (WASP) climate model will be used to generate future climate projections, and assess alternative mitigation strategies. Additional tools and literature review will be used to develop a composite Climate Change Index for multiple climatic targets. The additional tools include a Dynamic Impacts and Vulnerability Assessment tool for assessing coastal impacts of sea level rise (e.g. Nicholls et al., 2018), a database of historic flooding events, and models of marine ecosystem response to climatic stressors.

The INSPIRE DTP programme provides comprehensive personal and professional development training alongside extensive opportunities for students to expand their multi-disciplinary outlook through interactions with a wide network of academic, research and industrial/policy partners. The student will be registered at the University of Southampton and hosted at the School of Ocean and Earth Science. Specific training will
Configuring and using the WASP climate model, and training in the required techniques to assess the additional climate targets identified. This may include Dynamic Impacts and Vulnerability Assessment modeling, modeling/analyzing marine biological responses to combined ocean acidification and warming, and statistical analysis of changing frequency of extreme sea level rise events. Training in data manipulation, statistical analysis and presentation of results will be provided in R and MATLAB.

Funding Notes

You can apply for fully-funded studentships (stipend and fees) from INSPIRE if you:
Are a UK or EU national.
Have no restrictions on how long you can stay in the UK.
Have been 'ordinarily resident' in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the project.

Please click link to View Website for more information on eligibilty and how to apply


1] Goodwin, P., S. Brown, I. Haigh, R. Nicholls, and J. Matter (2018). Adjusting Mitigation Pathways to stabilize climate at 1.5 and 2.0 °C rise in global temperatures to year 2300, Earth’s Future 6, 601-615, doi:10.1002/2017EF000732.

[2] Nicholls, R.J., S. Brown, P. Goodwin, T. Wahl, J. Lowe, M. Solan, J.A. Godbold, I.D. Haigh, D. Lincke, J. Hinkel, C. Wolff and J-L Merkens (2018) Stabilisation of global temperature at 1.5°C and 2.0°C: Implications for coastal areas, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A. 376: 20160448. doi:10.1098/rsta.2016.0448.

[3] Mace, G.M. et al. (2014) Approaches to defining a planetary boundary for biodiversity. Global Environmental Change 28, 289-297,

How good is research at University of Southampton in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 68.62

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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