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Showing posts from October, 2013

Making decisions in an environmentally uncertain world

Improved decision making in the face of environmental uncertainty is at the heart of the Cabot Institute. Although individuals, businesses and society aspire to make logical decisions, informed by evidence and wisdom, we are also influenced by a complex mixture of emotions, ethics, political opportunism and personal beliefs.  These murky waters become even more challenging to navigate when dealing with the inherent uncertainty in the basic evidence.  And it becomes almost impossible when pre-conceived beliefs and opinions replace evidence.  In such scenarios, uncertainty can be manipulated as a tool to undermine evidence and justify flawed decisions.  This is the particular challenge of decision making in the context of complex environmental, economic and ecological issues.

To a scientist confronted with evidence that human activity is changing our environment at unprecedented rates, it is apparent that environmental uncertainty is rarely appropriately deployed in policy making.  Most…

Who is responsible for communicating environmental science?

On the evening of 28 October journalists, broadcasters, scientists and NGO’s came together in the House of Commons with the All Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group (APPCCG) to discuss a report launched by the International Broadcasting trust entitled “The environment on TV: Are broadcasters meeting the challenge”.  The report aimed to investigate how well environmental issues and in particular climate change is communicated to the public.  The research combined quantitative analysis of current television material and qualitative analysis of interviews with range of broadcasters and producers. The report examines non-news television with an environmental theme broadcasted over a 12 month period between June 2012 and May 2013 across the mainstream TV channels (BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky). A total of 394 hours of new environmental programming was shown over the studied period and 84% of this was broadcast at peak times (between 18.30 and 22.30). Natural history was shown to be a fi…

The opportunities for and limits of green growth in cities

Prof Andrew Gouldson of the University of Leeds ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics & Policy, came to visit the Cabot Institute on 10 October 2013 and gave a talk entitled Towards low carbon, climate resilent cities? The opportunities for and limits of green growth. Here I outline some of the key points made by Andrew and whether green growth is a viable way to grow the economies of cities whilst undertaking decarbonisation initiatives, using facts and figures taken from Andrew’s talk.
The emergence of green growth There has been a rapid emergence of green growth over the last few years but there has also been a big debate around whether green growth is a valuable way to tackle climate change.  Andrew himself said that responses to climate change should be scientifically justified, socially supported, technologically possible, economically viable and politically acceptable.  It could be said that green growth really emerged from the publication of the infamous Stern Review wh…

Bristol Green Doors: Measuring the impact of retrofitting

Energy has recently dominated the news, with headlines proclaiming that household costs (as well as company profits) are on the increase.  Overshadowed in this discussion are the environmental impacts:  over a quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions come from a domestic context, primarily through energy use.  Over the past decade, the field of HCI (human-computer interaction) has become increasingly concerned with issues of sustainability, and a number of researchers have chosen to focus on energy reduction strategies.  Many of these efforts have resulted in technology that aims to persuade the user to use less gas and electricity by providing them with personalised information, whether in the form of facts and figures (e.g. home energy portals) or through ambient displays like the Power Aware cord.
However, there is one method of reducing home energy use that has received little attention: retrofitting.  Installing measures such as double glazing, wall insulation, or a more efficient bo…