Climate Change Models Brought to Life

The Ultimo Series The State of the Climate lecture ignites debate.

Guests were riveted last night as thought leader Professor Katrin Meissner presented a compelling and highly visual academic lecture on Climate Change modelling.

In a night not to be missed, Professor Meissner’s engagement with and deep knowledge of the complex topic of Climate Science modelling was showcased as she took the group through the intricacies of Climate Change modelling. We travelled backwards in time to look for analogous climate events. We also looked forward in time using various scenarios to arrive at projected outcomes and examine the implications for the earth’s climate.

Hosted by Acting Deputy Principal Academic Fabian Mandrini and Year 12 student and Sustainability Portfolio Leader Madeleine Hayen, the evening commenced with light refreshments and the opportunity for guests to mingle before the formalities. Madeleine then began formalities with an Acknowledgement of Country,  welcoming Professor Meissner and the assembled guest. Madeleine shared an overview of various sustainability measures at the School and the role of the School’s Sustainable Futures Club.


Professor Meissner then took the floor to shed light on why the current climate situation warrants concern despite the planet’s history of fluctuating climate variability and change, presenting compelling scientific evidence in a clear, accessible and factual manner.

Currently the director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Professor Meissner’s engaging lecture was backed by IPCC research and her own research into abrupt climate change events, climate system thresholds, and feedback mechanisms. 

Professor Meissner’s presentation was informative and gripping, with easy to understand infographics. It was particularly fascinating to look at the various periods in the earth’s history, and their varying temperatures, carbon levels and life forms.

One startling slide in Professor Meissner’s presentation demonstrated the thickness of the ice sheets 21,000 years ago – with cities such as present day Chicago 900 metres below the ice and Montreal 3,300 metres below, during the Last Glacial. At that time, evidence of human activity is contained in artefacts such as handprints on The Cosquer Cave in France – estimated to have been made 27,400+/- 401 years before the present time. Closer to home, Hands Up High in the Nanguluwur (Nourlangie), Kakadu National Park are estimated to be at least 20,000 years old.

We also met Lucy, one of our earliest ancestors, and looked at climate conditions at that time. Finally we examined the extreme impacts of future climate change which is likely to include tropical storms of increasing ferocity, more severe droughts and fire weather, and increasing heat waves and extreme rainfall.


The lecture provided those in attendance with an opportunity to put current climate events into context and ignited debate. One parent, noting what an amazing talk Professor Meissner had presented, queried how she deals with the frustration of climate deniers. Professor Meissner noted that unfortunately, research confirms that ‘facts don’t change opinions’ and many people are only likely to change direction as further impacts are personally experienced. She highlighted that solutions will not, in reality, cost more than the damaging status quo and that it is purely the will to change that is needed.

“It was a pleasure to have Professor Katrin Meissner join us for a fascinating talk on The State of the Climate. As an expert in abrupt climate change and the intricacies of our climate system, Professor Meissner did a fantastic job breaking down complex science into something we could all grasp and appreciate. She shared her research using Earth System Climate Models and palaeoclimate records, helping us understand the key factors driving climate change, especially in terms of how our land and oceans interact. Her talk was both informative and engaging, leaving us all with a clearer picture of the challenges and importance of climate science. A big thank you to Professor Meissner for sharing her knowledge with us!”

Carmelo Fedele
Head of Sustainability

We thank Professor Meissner for her inspiring insights. Thanks also to Acting Deputy Principal Academic Fabian Mandrini and to Sustainability Portfolio Leader Madeleine Hayen for bringing this event to a wider audience.



We look forward to the next invigorating instalment of The Ultimo Series When the Machines Talk: The Future of Artificial Intelligence at 6pm on Thursday 29 August 2024.

Professor Toby Walsh, named on the international “Who’s Who in AI” list of influencers and a strong advocate for limits to ensure AI is used to improve our lives, will present this lecture. He is the Chief Scientist of UNSW.AI and has spoken at the UN, to heads of state, parliamentary bodies, company boards and many others on this evolving and increasingly important topic.


upcoming lectures

When the Machines Talk: The Future of Artificial Intelligence
Term 3 – 5.45pm to 7.30pm, Thursday 29 August 2024
Professor Toby Walsh, Scientia Professor and Chief AI Scientist UNSW

The Ethics of Care: Lessons from the Neurobiology of Early Life Trauma and Abuse
Term 4 – 5.45pm to 7.30pm, Thursday 21 November 2024
Mary-Jo McVeigh, Social Worker of the Year 2023 USyd, and Director of Cara House


Supporting the IGS Sharing Program
Proceeds from The Ultimo Series will support the IGS Sharing Program, including the Indigenous Scholarship Fund and the Building Fund, reflecting the community’s commitment to inclusive education and infrastructure development.