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Showing posts from July, 2015

How Bristol geologists are contributing to international development

It maybe isn't immediately obvious how a pet-rock-owning earth scientist is able to change the world; the basement labs in the Wills Memorial Building seem a far cry from fighting global poverty. But the study of geology and having a knowledge of the earth and its resources is actually vitally important for the success of many international development projects.

Geology for global development: what is it all about?
Geology for Global Development (GfGD) is a national organisation that wants to bring awareness to the important position that geologists are in, to be able to make a difference. And it’s not just geologists that are involved here; GfGD recognises that through the collaboration of students from a wide range of disciplines, a positive and effective contribution to development can be made. For example, earth scientists can learn a lot from anthropologists about working alongside different communities whilst being sensitive to cultural differences.

This has been the first y…

How to communicate effectively about climate change uncertainty

Have you ever struggled with the communication of climate change uncertainties? Are you frustrated by climate sceptics using uncertainty – inherent in any area of complex science – as a justification for delaying policy responses? Then the new ‘Uncertainty Handbook’ – a collaboration between the University of Bristol and its Cabot Institute and the Climate Outreach & Information Network (COIN) – is for you. The handbook was authored by Dr. Adam Corner (COIN), Professor Stephan Lewandowsky (Cabot Institute, University of Bristol), Dr Mary Phillips (University of Bristol) and Olga Roberts (COIN). All have expertise relating to the role of uncertainty in climate change or how best to communicate it.  The Handbook distills the most important research findings and expert advice on communicating uncertainty into a few pages of practical, easy-to-apply techniques, providing scientists, policymakers and campaigners with the tools they need to communicate more effectively around climate chan…

Weathermen of Westeros: Does the climate in Game of Thrones make sense?

The climate has been a persistent theme of Game of Thrones ever since Ned Stark (remember him?) told us “winter is coming” back at the start of season one. The Warden of the North was referring, of course, to the anticipated shift in Westerosi weather from a long summer to a brutal winter that can last for many years. An unusual or changing climate is a big deal. George R R Martin’s world bears many similarities to Medieval Europe, where changes to the climate influenced social and economic developments through impacts on water resources, crop development and the potential for famine.
We’re interested in whether Westeros’s climate science adds up, given what we’ve learned about how these things work here on Earth.

It’s not easy to understand the mechanisms driving the climate system given we can’t climb into the Game of Thrones universe and take measurements ourselves. It’s hard enough to get an accurate picture of what’s driving the world’s climate even with many thousands of thermo…

Naomi Oreskes – are the merchants of doubt still selling?

With breakthrough science finding and new technologies emerging every day, one major issue for the scientists is to convince the public to embrace the novelties. However, despite more and more effort being put into public engagement, the credibility of science is still staggering. One of the biggest frustrations, surprisingly, comes from some fellow scientists. They deny the existing consensus of the science world and incite doubts in the public minds. Last Thursday, Naomi Oreskes gave a fascinating Cabot Institute/Bristol Festival of Ideas seminar about the agenda of these doubt merchants and their reasoning behind these agendas.  This blog highlights key parts of her talk.

In her talk, Naomi took climate change as a key example. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) was established as a greenhouse gas in 1850, and the burning of fossil fuels was proved to be an emitter of CO2 at the beginning of 20th century. In 1965, after years of intensive observation and recording, Keeling demonstrated the cons…

Historians at the science-focussed Festival of Nature

Last weekend, ‘The Power and the Water’ project ran its first ever stand at the Festival of Nature (FoN), Bristol’s annual celebration of the natural world. It was a first not only for the project but for the School of Humanities too, as it was the first time a non-science subject had been included in the University of Bristol (UoB) tent.

What we did
‘Hidden River Histories’ took the research that the Bristol-based team members are doing (Power and Water is a three-strand project with researchers at Nottingham and Cambridge Universities too) to create an interactive display that introduced environmental history to a diverse audience. We knew that the Festival is a popular event for all ages and backgrounds. Established in 2003, it is the UK’s biggest free celebration of the natural world with two days of free interactive activities and live entertainment across Bristol’s Harbourside. We wanted to introduce the field of environmental history to Festival-goers, and specifically some ke…