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Siberia heatwave: why the Arctic is warming so much faster than the rest of the world

Smoke from wildfires cloaks the skies over Siberia, June 23 2020.EPA-EFE/NASA

On the eve of the summer solstice, something very worrying happened in the Arctic Circle. For the first time in recorded history, temperatures reached 38°C (101°F) in a remote Siberian town – 18°C warmer than the maximum daily average for June in this part of the world, and the all-time temperature record for the region.

New records are being set every year, and not just for maximum temperatures, but for melting ice and wildfires too. That’s because air temperatures across the Arctic have been increasing at a rate that is about twice the global average.

All that heat has consequences. Siberia’s recent heatwave, and high summer temperatures in previous years, have been accelerating the melting of Arctic permafrost. This is the permanently frozen ground which has a thin surface layer that melts and refreezes each year. As temperatures rise, the surface layer gets deeper and structures embedded in it start to …
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Black Lives Matter

Diversity is an issue that the Cabot Institute team discuss a lot. Out of a concern for the lack of inclusion in Bristol’s ‘green scene’, we awarded Innovation Funds to the brilliant Green and Black Ambassadors’ project to support two black women to develop their (already inspiring) leadership and begin to build a more inclusive environmental community. We’ve refused to participate in, or cancelled, events that didn’t have diversity in the speaker list. And we feel proud to have the first female president of the Royal Meteorological Society as the Chair of our Board.

Whilst small, these actions require individual and collective consciousness embedded in everyday decisions.

But for all our caring and progress to date, we know we have not done enough. Not nearly.

The past few weeks have, in honesty, left us reeling. The tragic death of George Floyd, and the widespread #BlackLivesMatter activism that followed have served as a critical and hard-hitting reminder of just how far we have to …

Innovating for sustainable oceans

University of Bristol’s Cabot Institute researchers come together for the oceans’ critical decade
World Oceans Day 2020 – the start of something big Since 1992, World Oceans Day has been bringing communities and countries together on 8 June to shine a light on the benefits we derive from – and the threats faced by – our oceans. But this year, there’s an even bigger event on the horizon. One that may go a long way to determining our planet’s future, and which researchers at the Cabot Institute for the Environment intend to be an integral part of.

From next year, the United Nations launches its Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, a major new initiative that aims to “support efforts to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health”.

Oceans are of enormous importance to humans and all life on our planet – they regulate our climate, provide food, help us breathe and support worldwide economies. They absorb 50 times more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere, and sea-dwelling p…

A modal share for net zero

Bristol needs to get more people cycling and walking in the next decade to meet its net-zero carbon emissions target Bristol has committed to an ambitious goal of being carbon neutral by 2030. This will require an 88% reduction in emissions from the transport sector in the next decade. While other sectors, such as energy and waste, have decarbonised significantly in recent years, emissions from transport have been stubborn to change. Transport, therefore, represents one of the greatest challenges for Bristol meeting its 2030 ambitions.

The challenge of reaching this target has been compounded by uncertainty around what a carbon neutral transport sector would look like. We know intuitively that car journeys need to be replaced by public transport, walking, and cycling. However, a lack of certainty about the scale and nature of the shift required makes it difficult to establish a roadmap for transitioning to a sustainable transport system. In 2019, the Sustainable Transport Network (ST…

Rebuilding Bristol as a city of care

I was asked to speak at an event organised by the Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees and the City Office team that brought together academics and other interested in rebuilding Bristol. I was asked to respond to the following question and thought people might be interested in reading the full text here:

‘Bristol, along with cities all over the globe, is facing an unprecedented health, economic and social crisis. This brings both a challenge and an opportunity to rebuild our city. If we do it well, Bristol will be more inclusive, more sustainable and more resilient in the face of future shocks. If we do it without thinking, falling into old assumptions (i.e. badly), the opposite is true. How should we rebuild our city?’

In 5 minutes I can only hope to raise some issues and matters of concern. There are many present here today who will know a lot more than me about aspects of social justice - especially around race, disability and class and I hope they will join in afterwards with comments a…

Coronavirus: flying in fruit pickers from countries in lockdown is dangerous for everyone

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, major agricultural companies and charities have chartered flights to urgently bring in tens of thousands of Bulgarian and Romanian agricultural workers. Flights have headed to places like Karlsruhe and Düsseldorf in Germany, along with Essex and the Midlands in the UK.

This comes after farmers in both countries warned there is a real risk that thousands of tons of produce might be left to rot – further affecting food supply chains – if vacancies for agricultural workers go unfilled.

The excessive demand for food during lockdown has meant that farm labourers are classed as key workers, which is why they are being flown to the UK and other Western European countries.

In the UK, up to 90,000 temporary positions need to be filled within weeks. A national campaign has been launched appealing to students and those who have lost their jobs in bars, cafes and shops to help with the harvest. But so far the scheme only has around 10,000 applicants with …

Coronavirus conspiracy theories are dangerous – here’s how to stop them spreading

The number of coronavirus infections and deaths continues to rise at an alarming rate, reminding us that this crisis is far from over. In response, the global scientific community has thrown itself at the problem and research is unfolding at an unprecedented rate.

The new virus was identified, along with its natural origins, and tests for it were rapidly developed. Labs across the world are racing to develop a vaccine, which is estimated to be still around 12 to 18 months away.

At the same time, the pandemic has been accompanied by an infodemic of nonsense, disinformation, half-truths and conspiracy theories that have spread virally through social networks. This damages society in a variety of ways. For example, the myth that COVID-19 is less dangerous than the seasonal flu was deployed by US president Donald Trump as justification for delaying mitigation policies.

The recent downgrading of COVID-19 death projections, which reveal the success of social-distancing policies, has bee…