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Christopher Jackson interview: How geologists can fight climate change


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Geologists have a reputation for facilitating the extraction of minerals and fossil fuels, says Christopher Jackson. Now we must use our expertise to find sources of renewable energy

Environment 2 February 2022

By Abigail Beall

Jennie Edwards

FROM the breathtaking Atlas mountains in Morocco to the expansive deserts of the US, Christopher Jackson’s work has taken him to some incredible places. Incredible and sometimes risky, too: he has been held at gunpoint and put in prison in the line of duty. Why does he do it? Just for the sake of a few old rocks.

Geologists might have a long list of adventure stories to recite and an enviable set of stamps in their passports, but Jackson says that in many people’s eyes, they don’t have a good reputation. After all, they often use their knowledge of Earth’s rocks and tectonic processes to identify rich mineral seams to dig up and fossil fuels to drill, all of which is a horror to the environment.

Now, Jackson is seeking to flip the story. As chair in sustainable geoscience at the University of Manchester, UK, he says geologists must play a crucial part in fighting climate change. That means helping to create technologies that allow us to live more sustainably and spreading the word about our planet’s climate history. Earth’s rocks were formed at various points in the past, and their chemistry and structure reflect the conditions that prevailed at the time. This geological record can be read to reveal how our planet’s climate has warmed and cooled over the aeons – a story that can help us better understand climate change in our own time. Jackson spoke to New Scientist about his epic travels, how geology can help us live with less environmental impact and the difficult task of improving diversity in geosciences.

Abigail Beall: Your job …

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