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Science Museum Group announces major focus on sustainability for 2021

Today (10 December 2020) the Science Museum Group announced a major focus on sustainability and climate change in its public programme throughout 2021, reinforcing a commitment to engaging its physical and digital audiences with the science and solutions to the urgent challenges facing our planet.

Commencing in January 2021, a new 11-part event series, Climate Talks, will lead public engagement around climate science within the cultural sector and conclude in the run up to COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021. Streamed online to connect with an expanding global audience with broadcasts hosted across the group’s museums, including the National Science and Media Museum, the event series brings together a diverse, distinguished lineup of international speakers, such as climate scientists, astronauts, engineers, industry leaders, activists, journalists, politicians and high-profile cultural figures.

Climate Talks will confront the most pressing issues around climate science and explore which innovations can really make a difference in tackling the most urgent threat to planet Earth and humanity. Topics for the first wave of events, available to book from today, range from global greenhouse gas removal and the clean energy revolution to how the work of astronauts and space research is helping us track the effects of climate change more accurately than ever before.

Three of the talks will also form part of this year’s climate-themed Manchester Science Festival in February 2021, hosted by the Science and Industry Museum. Musician and climate campaigner Brian Eno, journalists Samira Ahmed and Gaia Vince, and Dr Helen Czerski will spearhead debates covering pioneering work in using the law to fight climate change, the future of fuel, and a look at James Lovelock’s legacy, with an exclusive video appearance from the 101-year-old scientist himself.

The series forms part of the Science Museum Group’s climate focused public programme. In 2020 the National Science and Media Museum hosted a Lates event on the theme of climate and environment in partnership with Bradford Council and a documentary about activist Greta Thunberg screened in Pictureville Cinema; environment and sustainability are also features of the annual Bradford Science Festival. In 2021 there will be an opportunity to attend one of the Climate Talk events in person at the National Science and Media Museum, and in spring, BBC Earth’s new documentary Antarctica 3D will be shown in IMAX.

Elsewhere in the group, coinciding with COP26, the Science Museum in London’s exhibition Our Future Planet opens on 1 April 2021. The first significant UK exhibition to be presented on the subject of carbon capture and storage, it will explore the latest techniques being developed for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to mitigate climate change. Visitors will be able to explore a range of approaches to removing carbon: from nature-based solutions such as the protection of ancient forests and preserving our peat bogs or planting native trees, to chemical and mechanical processes—many of which are not yet proven at scale. The exhibition will explore how these techniques can be used to reduce atmospheric carbon, and how this carbon can be held in mass storage or used to create everyday products like building materials, toothpaste and even vodka. Sustainability has been at the core of the development of the exhibition: the majority of objects have been locally sourced and the exhibition reuses setworks, showcases and AV equipment from previous exhibitions at the museum.

Director of the Science Museum Group Sir Ian Blatchford said:

“Climate change takes centre stage in our programme for the year ahead. We’ll be inviting our audiences to challenge themselves and ignite their curiosity as we explore how science can help humanity take on the existential threat of global heating.”

Astronaut Tim Peake said:

“From space, it is clear to see how human activity is changing the face of our planet and striking to witness the fragility of life on Earth, sustained by such a thin, precious atmosphere. Earth observation satellites are providing vital data to aid our understanding of climate change, but it is only our actions that can make a difference.”

Throughout 2021, new online stories will explore the environment and sustainability through the lens of the incredible Science Museum Group Collection. From weather forecasting to green transport solutions and the science of our oceans, these richly-illustrated articles will weave together historic objects, transformative events and powerful people stories. The group will also reveal thousands of objects, from ground-breaking devices for monitoring the natural world to those which illustrate political, social and personal responses to environmental change, through its online collection.

Sustainable practices will inform the design and build of new exhibitions and the group’s masterplan projects. At the National Collections Centre in Wiltshire, construction is nearing completion for the group’s most energy efficient building yet, a publicly-accessible collection management facility which will become home to more than 300,000 objects from the Science Museum Group Collection.  

Free tickets can be booked to watch these events online from any of the museum websites:

For more information, please contact phil.oates@scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk.

ENDS

Notes for editors

About the Science Museum Group

The Science Museum Group is the world’s leading group of science museums, welcoming over five million visitors each year to five sites: the Science Museum in London; the National Railway Museum in York; the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester; the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford; and Locomotion in Shildon. We share the stories of innovations and people that shaped our world and are transforming the future, constantly reinterpreting our astonishingly diverse collection of 7.3 million items spanning science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine. Standout objects include the record-breaking locomotive Flying Scotsman, Richard Arkwright’s textile machinery, Alan Turing’s Pilot ACE computer and the earliest surviving recording of British television. Our mission is to inspire futures—igniting curiosity among people of all ages and backgrounds. Each year, our museums attract more than 600,000 visits by education groups, while our touring exhibition programme brings our creativity and scholarship to audiences across the globe. More information can be found on the Science Museum Group website

The Science Museum Group and sustainability

The Science Museum Group (SMG) has been a leader in raising climate awareness through its public programme, while the group’s approach to sustainability has transformed its working practices and collections care. Highlights from the past decade include:

  • Since 2011/12, SMG has cut direct carbon emissions by 69%, from its operations despite increasing floor area by 24% as a result of mergers and Masterplan developments, and purchases all its electricity from renewable sources (except at the Blythe House object store)
  • In 2005, the Science Museum became the first national museum to install solar panels on its roof
  • The National Collections Centre site at Wroughton hosts a solar farm business that generates almost four times the total amount of energy used by the whole of SMG
  • We’ve also built a hempcrete storage facility at the National Collections Centre and the site uses two prototype hydrogen fuel cell cars
  • The Atmosphere gallery exploring the science of climate change, which opened in 2010, has been seen by more than 5 million people
  • In 2019, the Science Museum Group announced fresh commitments to biodiversity including planting at least 1,000 native, locally-sourced trees a year on its estate throughout this decade, joining 43,000 trees already planted at the National Collections Centre
  • Biodiversity has also been encouraged by the addition of beehives at the Science Museum; installing over a hundred bird and bat boxes together with log piles and hibernacula for reptiles and insects at the National Collections Centre; planting wildflowers at Locomotion in County Durham; and extensive new box planting across the Science and Industry Museum’s seven-acre historic city-centre site in Manchester
  • Climate change has been a recurrent theme in SMG’s public programme, with exhibitions including: Unlocking Lovelock; The Rubbish Collection, an art installation made of waste; Luke Jerram’s spectacular artwork Gaia, as part of the National Science and Media Museum’s Hello Universe exhibition; and the Lovelock Art Commissons for Manchester Science Festival: The Sounds of Others: A Biophonic Line with artist Marcus Coates and Cape Farewell (2014); Evaporation with artist Tania Kovats and Cape Farewell (2015) and Cloud Crash with Nerc/Cape Farewell and artists HeHe (2016/17).

Part of the Science Museum Group