Guest Blog: Climate change is real - all sensible people know this, but let’s stay positive

Natasha Bhatia, one of our Placements from the University of Hull, here writes about the start of her placement and where she hopes it will take her research.

The increasing regularity with which climate change decides to flex its muscles is a continuing global issue. In the UK, perhaps the most common indicators of climate change will be storm surges, flooding events and increased rainfall up and down the country. With more and more people choosing to live in coastal areas because of the many welfare and cultural benefits they provide, what impacts do storm surges have on these benefits, and how does this affect societal welfare?

Having worked in a consultancy for the past few years on a wide variety of environmental projects, I am used to delivering outputs to strict client specifications. Therefore the opportunity to spend an uninterrupted period of time really understanding the issues that face users of the coastal environment and the potential impacts of storm surges in terms of their welfare, is only something my fairy godmother, the Valuing Nature Programme, could provide! It is a daunting but welcome situation that I am now in: able to pursue a personal and professional research interest with only myself to answer to (and blame), and take the necessary time to really appreciate the learning process and develop new skills. 

I attended the kick-off meeting in January, at which point The Fear had already set in. I’d worked hard on my research proposal but still, NERC and the Valuing Nature Programme are high profile - what if I had been over-confident with what I could deliver in the three month time frame? Likely. I had laid bare my soul and promised to deliver everything but my first born child in the name of science…; What if I couldn’t communicate the findings in the appropriate way? A risk- I come from a job where I am used to writing for scientific communities, whereas this would need to be much more accessible; What if the outputs were unsuitable for use as an evidence base for policy and legislation? The holy grail of environmental research, achieved less often than you’d hope. However, after airing these anxieties it was clear that actually, they were pretty similar to those the other candidates had, and with expert support provided by the Valuing Nature Programme Team these problems were shared, halved and somewhat calmed. As is the case with most over-worriers such as myself, I had needlessly spiralled. Panic over for now. 

I am currently well into the first stages of the research proposal, preparing my own evidence base from which to use as a springboard to propel my better educated self into the world of flood modelling, hazard perception and valuation. So far, it’s much more enjoyable and rewarding than I anticipated. That’s not to say it isn’t challenging, because if it’s anything, it’s that, but Rome wasn’t built in a day! Can part of it be built in three months? I say yes!