Professor Shuckburgh and her daughters at the Primary School

Penguins and postcards at University Primary School Earth Day assemblies

Cambridge Zero Director Professor Emily Shuckburgh held two assemblies for children from reception to year six at the University of Cambridge Primary School for Earth Day.

Nearly 600 students learned how climate change is melting the ice in Antarctica, threatening the lives of penguins and other polar creatures, and causing a rise in sea levels over a timeline that runs from England's King Charles II in the 18th century to today’s monarch Charles III.

Professor Shuckburgh had two special student assistants, her daughters Eloise and Genevieve, demonstrate the kinds of heavy coats, gloves, hats and goggles provided by the British Antarctic Survey, that researchers like her need to wear to withstand the extreme cold in the polar region.

She explained how researchers drill into the ice in Antarctica up to 3 km thick to collect the ice core samples which have trapped bubbles of CO2 for 800,000 years and help provide the evidence which demonstrates the rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere over thousands of years.

“1740 was a really, really cold year,” said Professor Shuckburgh pointing to the start of a timeline -- festooned with monarchs from the British school curriculum -- that showed overall temperatures on Earth have been rising and with more frequent and higher spikes, while cooler temperatures are milder and happen with less and less frequency.

“So you can see how we have continued to see climate change over our history and it’s got warmer and warmer.”

Eloise and Genevieve pitched in to describe to their fellow students the overall effects of climate change on people and animals across the planet, with photos of wildfires, droughts, floods and animals at risk from the loss of their habitat.

Students at the assemblies offered their thoughts on everything from why less meat was good for the environment and people, and answered questions on their understanding of the climate crisis.

Professor Shuckburgh provided each class with a copy of her new children's book, A Ladybird Book: Climate Change, co-authored with King Charles III and Dr Tony Juniper, an environmentalist and Chair of Natural England.

Each student also received a postcard with beautiful illustrations from the book created by Aleesha Nandhra, which depicted sustainable solutions like giant white wind turbines and children protesting on behalf of the planet.

“You can use this to write to a friend, a family member, someone you love about what you think about climate change,” Professor Shuckburgh told the children.