Dr Cat Scott

Dr Cat Scott

Profile

I am a NERC Independent Research Fellow and University Academic Fellow in Biosphere-Climate Interactions. The overall aim of my research is to understand the extent to which land-use change can help mitigate climate change and meet the targets set in the Paris Agreement on Climate. I work in the Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science and am a member of the Atmospheric Chemistry and Aerosols research theme.

I am also Director of the Leeds Ecosystem, Atmosphere and Forest (LEAF) centre. LEAF aims to bring together anyone working on forest/vegetation related research from various faculties within University, and make this research more accessible its end-users. We also work with external partners such as charities, local authorities and media organisations on collaborative projects.

During 2018/2019 I undertook a secondment to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), for two days each week, working in the Science and Innovation for Climate and Energy (SICE) Directorate.

Science Communication

I am a STEM Ambassador and was a University of Leeds Engagement Excellence Fellow (2016-2017). I was the academic lead on the Trees Investigation, part of the BBC’s Terrific Scientific nationwide primary school science campaign (2017) and won the Climate Change zone of "I'm a Scientist Get Me Out of Here!" (2016).

Responsibilities

  • Director of Leeds Ecosystem, Atmosphere & Forest (LEAF) centre

Research interests

My research explores interactions between the biosphere and the atmosphere - I am particularly interested in the role of trees and forests in altering atmospheric composition. During my PhD I quantified the radiative impacts of biogenic secondary organic aerosols and explored the way that deforestation affects the climate by altering the concentrations of short-lived climate forcers (aerosols and non-CO2 greenhouse gases) in the atmosphere. As part of my first postdoctoral research project we quantified the strength of natural aerosol-climate feedbacks due to fires and the production of biogenic secondary organic aerosol, finding that they were comparable in strength to other biogeochemical feedbacks.

The aim of my current Fellowship is to exploit the next generation of climate models to assess the potential for land-use change policy (e.g., reduced deforestation and increased afforestation) to help society meet climate targets. In 2015, an ambitious global agreement was signed in Paris to try and limit warming due to climate change to less than 2 degrees since the pre-industrial period; we're already at almost 1 degree. Scientists can use detailed computer simulations to try and understand what could happen to the climate in the future; by 2050 in scenarios that succeed in limiting warming to the levels specified in the Paris Agreement, society is no longer a net emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs), but we are drawing more GHGs out of the air than we're putting in. The longer it takes global GHG emissions to peak the greater the extent of GHG removal, or negative emissions, we will require. There are a couple of ways that net negative emissions could be achieved. Currently, the most technologically feasible is through eliminating deforestation and engaging in large-scale afforestation and reforestation. Another way, which relies on future technological developments, is to burn biomass to generate energy and then capture and store any GHGs that would have been emitted in deep geological reservoirs. Initial estimates suggest that an area the size of Australia would need to be dedicated to growing energy crops in order to generate sufficient negative emissions through this process.

My previous research has demonstrated that forests and other vegetation can have a cooling impact on the climate because of interactions between plants and the composition of the atmosphere. Plants emit a wide range of gases into the air, the kind that give pine forests their distinctive smell. These gases take part in complex chemical reactions and can go on to form particles that act as seeds for cloud droplet formation. This process is important because the more droplets there are in a cloud, the brighter and more reflective of the Sun's energy it is, helping to cool the climate. My previous work also indicates that the cooling effects due to these natural particles could become stronger as global temperatures rise; this may act to slightly dampen the warming caused by higher GHG concentrations. I will develop and use the UK's first fully-coupled Earth System Model (UKESM) to assess the potential for future land-use change to help meet global climate targets. 

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://environment.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Qualifications

  • PhD, 'The biogeochemical impacts of forests...', University of Leeds
  • MSc, Energy and Environment, University of Leeds
  • MChem, Chemistry with Industrial Experience, University of Manchester

Professional memberships

  • Royal Society of Chemistry

Student education

Cat supervises undergraduate/postgraduate research projects and contributes to teaching on modules across the University.

Research groups and institutes

  • Atmospheric Chemistry and Aerosols
  • Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>