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Showing posts from April, 2014

Your planet needs you!

We are under attack. Our assailants threaten to kill millions of people, destroy our homes and wipe out our crops. Who are these fiends?

Us.

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) focusses on how we can stop runaway climate change before it’s too late.  Despite our “best efforts”, anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase at an alarming rate. The IPCC estimates that without any additional effort to reduce emissions, we’re looking at a rise in temperature of between 3.7 and 4.8°C by 2100, although variability in the effects of climate change mean the rise could be as high as 7.8°C. Anything over 2°C means we risk runaway climate change with catastrophic effects felt around the world.

A call to action
The UK energy secretary Ed Davey responded to yesterday’s IPCC press conference by stating,
“we need a worldwide, large-scale change to our energy system if we are to limit the effects of climate change”  and called for an inter…

Climate change in the media

This winter, devastating floods and extreme weather have battered the UK.  Similarly, we have been battered by an endless barrage of news, opinion and political grandstanding.  Encouragingly, a narrative is beginning to emerge that now is the time for disaster management not a complete dissection of our short- and long-term flood defense system (an opinion we have advocated ourselves). That is encouraging.

It is vital that the issue of climate change be a central part of that discussion. Climate change is one of the most profound challenges facing humanity – a challenge recognised by scientists, politicians, lawyers, businesses and even the military. However, it is a challenge associated with uncertain and complex consequences, with the most pernicious concerns not necessarily being climate change itself but how it exacerbates other issues, such as flooding but also food security, access to resources, the spread of disease and fostering conflict.  It cannot sit in isolation from the…

What can satellites tell us about the link between volcanic inflation and eruption?

Ground deformation at volcanoes
In order to assess and monitor the eruption potential of volcanoes worldwide, scientists use an array of observations including seismicity, gas emissions and deformation (motion or changes in the shape) of the ground. In the simplest case, a volcano will inflate before an eruption as the underlying magmatic system pressurises. This is perhaps most memorable in the bulge that formed on the flank of Mount St Helens prior to its eruption in May 1980. Observations of ground deformation not only tell us about escalating eruptive activity, but also shed light on the whole eruptive cycle, from the drainage of magma following an eruption, to the passage and storage of magma in the crust. However, many of the techniques used to monitor ground deformation are limited by their resolution in time (e.g. repeat surveys performed once each summer season) or their spatial resolution (e.g. in-situ equipment recording motion at a single or small network of points).

The …

A brief introduction to how Bristol's plant science might save the world

Global crop yields of wheat and corn are starting to decline, and the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests things are only going to get worse.

Last year I looked at previous research into what climate change might mean for global crop yields and found that overall crop yields would remain stable but regional declines could prove devastating for certain parts of the world. The definitive new report from the IPCC finds that actually a temperature rise of just 1°C will have negative impacts on the global yields of wheat, rice and maize, the three major crop plants. Food prices could increase by as much as 84% by 2050, with countries in the tropics being much more badly affected than northern Europe and North America.

All over the world, research is underway to find sustainable ways to feed the growing population. Scientists within the Cabot Institute’s Food Security research theme are working on a range of problems that should help us manage th…