Oxford Professor Explains Wildfires, Shows How Electric SUV Racing Helped Tackle Them

Extreme E Racing in Sardinia 6 photos
Photo: Extreme E on YouTube
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If you’re thinking about the intense heat waves and their devastating effects we’ve seen in many countries lately, then you might want to hear what this Oxford University professor has to say about it all. Besides briefly dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s of climate change and its impact, the academician also illustrates how racing helps to fight against the effects rising temperatures.
In an interview with Extreme E – the off-road racing series where all-electric SUVs provide the thrills –, Oxford University professor Richard Washington answers why we’re dealing with climate change, points out the problems that arise globally because of it, and puts racing in the solutions category.

In his opinion, temperatures are rising globally because human activity led to an increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. He says it will only get warmer if we continue to produce these harmful gases. The rise in temperatures leads to heat waves, which is a problem for humanity and the environment.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), carbon dioxide (CO2) represented 79% of the total greenhouse gas emission in 2020. And that’s with the land sector data excluded!

The professor underlines that higher temperatures lead to multiple problems. One of them is increased mortality because some people and animals can’t adapt fast enough to these conditions. The biological system can’t handle all the stress, and, simply put, it shuts down. Moreover, heat waves are affecting how we work. This is going to put a dent in productivity and might cause problems for companies and employees. Similarly, systems that we use constantly could fail and leave us without electricity, for example.

He gives the rail transport system as another example – heat causes deformation of the tracks. This leads to canceled trips and brings discomfort. Not even air travel is safe from heat waves. The runways can melt, and planes must land in other places while departures are being canceled until temperatures return to normal.

Washington says agriculture is also being affected by the increasing temperature. Draught is becoming a phenomenon experienced in multiple parts of the world, and farmers must deal with the consequences. In the end, without enough water for crops and other plantations, we risk entering a food crisis.

The Oxford professor underlines that dry weather and intense heat go hand in hand with a lack of rain. “Increased evaporation, clear skies, and sinking air stop any chance of rain,” said Washington.

Currently serving as Extreme E’s Head of the Scientific Committee, Richard Washington says the racing series helped with the fight against climate change and the effects of heat waves by sending people to plant olive trees in Sardinia. In addition, the all-electric motorsport and two partners installed a system that can detect forest fires “ultra-early.” It has been installed in the same Italian region that witnessed devastating forest fires. Last year, Extreme E and its partners like NASA or Microsoft helped with creating a wildfire mapping model that allows firefighters and other officials to know better where to intervene promptly before another disaster could happen.

The entire interview is available down below, which also includes the professor’s advice for those that want to stay clear of heat waves.
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About the author: Florin Amariei
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Car shows on TV and his father's Fiat Tempra may have been Florin's early influences, but nowadays he favors different things, like the power of an F-150 Raptor. He'll never be able to ignore the shape of a Ferrari though, especially a yellow one.
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