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Combating Climate Change With Cutting-Edge Science: UWC Celebrates National Science Week 2019

Author: Nicklaus Kruger

A strong democracy depends on a wide understanding of - and appreciation for - the benefits of science, technology and innovation. Therefore UWC’s Department of Physics and Astronomy is celebrating just that for National Science Week 2019.

(Published - 2 August 2019)

Is climate change a natural phenomenon or is it caused by humans? How will global climate change affect our lives, and our world? How can alternative energy sources be used to live a greener life? These questions and more are being explored during National Science Week 2019 at the University of the Western Cape.

“South Africa is faced with many challenges, and one of our main hopes of finding a solution is through science,” explains Dr Mark Herbert from UWC’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, who opened NSW 2019 at the University with a talk on career paths related to climate change. 

National Science Week (NSW), an initiative of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) running from 27 July to 2 August, is an annual event aimed at celebrating the role that science, mathematics, engineering and technology play in everyday life.

“National Science Week gives all scientists in South Africa an opportunity to disseminate their scientific information and awareness, and to showcase where possible, science innovations that are truly South African,” he says. “It also targets the improvement of science literacy for the benefit of the society, where by critical analysis of policies and science events are brought to the fore.”

That form of science literacy is important because science is the basis of the workplace in the Fourth Industrial Revolution which will affect every aspect of life.

The Department of Physics and Astronomy is hosting several activities, for NSW 2019, including  debates on the causes of climate change to public lectures on how to reduce your carbon footprint.

The UWC team is also visiting schools to promote science, technology, engineering, mathematics and innovation (STEMI) as career paths.

“There is now no doubt that the activities of people are affecting the climate,” says Prof Rob Lindsay, also from UWC’s Physics and Astronomy Department.  “The main influence is the production of green-house gases such as CO2 ,which - in the case of South Africa - is dominated by the production of electricity by burning coal.  We have the solution to this in South 

Africa - we need to use our abundance of sunlight and use more solar power.”  

UWC is trying to achieve this by making better solar cells.  The Physics and Astronomy Department has a unique facility to produce thin layers of materials which are  needed for the production of new, unique types of solar cells based on perovskites - material at the nano-scale with a specific crystal structure.  

“Results look very encouraging and hopefully we will all have home-grown solar cells on our roofs in the near future,” Prof Lindsay notes.

UWC is no stranger to greening - it has thrice been crowned Africa’s Greenest Campus, hosted the recent inter-university Green Campuses Conference 2019, and is the only South African University to be named among the top 200 universities in the world in the recent Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings, measuring higher education’s commitment and contributions to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

"Science is a double-edged sword, with the potential to have a great impact on the world, and on our lives,” says Dr Herbert. “So we should ensure we use it to chart the course for advancement, and a bright future for mankind."

Want to know more about UWC’s green endeavours? Or how UWC is powering the tech revolution? We’ve got you covered...
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