Interview: Ralf Toumi
Professor Ralf Toumi, a physicist who specialises in the science of tropical cyclones, has joined the Grantham Institute as Co-Director. He joins the leadership team alongside fellow Co-Director Professor Martin Siegert and Chair Professor Sir Brian Hoskins.
[Interview by Lottie Butler]
Tell us about your research.
I started my PhD studying stratospheric ozone chemistry, and since then, I’ve done lots of different things in climate science. Currently, my research passion is studying tropical cyclones. Last year, my team and I made a breakthrough in seasonal forecasting. Usually, storms are forecast in March for the coming typhoon season, which runs from July to September. However, we now think we can forecast the landfall of tropical storms in South China one year ahead.
What drew you to the Grantham Institute?
The environment is a fantastic area to study. Understanding how it works underpins everything, from climate forecasts, to the global energy economy, to the impact of the environment on health and livelihoods. A lot of breakthroughs start with blue-sky thinking, and I would like the Grantham Institute to continue to enable environmental research at Imperial that breaks new boundaries.
What is the most effective way to talk to people about climate change?
Know your audience. There is no single message that will work for everyone. My strongest engagement on climate change issues has always been with business, in particular with the energy and financial sectors. The CEO of an international bank will have very different concerns and opportunities to a low-income worker. You have to make climate change relevant to whoever you are talking to, so they can understand it in their own way and see how they fit into the story.
The environment is a fantastic area to study. Understanding how it works underpins everything."
Professor Ralf Toumi
What are your hopes for the College’s approach to sustainability?
The College’s current policy on fossil fuel investments should change to align with other Russell Group UK universities. I’m pleased to see that we now have Professor Paul Lickiss as Academic Leader in Sustainability, and that there will be a Sustainability Strategy launched and implemented soon.
What do you do to relax?
I have a West Ham season ticket and enjoy watching and going, but I cannot claim that it is relaxing.