Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from January, 2017

A local view helps fight the effects of climate change on the ocean

In 2011, a marine heatwave hit the west coast of Australia leading to ten days of above average sea temperatures. The area was already known as an ocean warming “hotspot”, but this particular period was a tipping point, causing dramatic changes to the marine ecosystem. Underwater kelp forests along the coast reduced in density by 43%, with some disappearing entirely.

The loss of kelp resulted in an ecological shift, which led to the growth of different kinds of algae as temperate water species were replaced by subtropical and tropical species. Five years later, kelp forest recovery has still not been observed. A few days of extreme heat resulted in apparently irreversible change.

The frequency and intensity of extreme events, like marine heatwaves, are only expected to increase, and their consequences are hard to predict. But while some of these extreme events could be devastating, it isn’t all doom and gloom. Even though human-induced climate change is happening, local steps can be t…

The Sarstoon-Temash National Park, Belize: forest communities and conservation

This is the second blog post from former Environmental Policy MSc student Rachel Simon. During her time at the University Rachel was a member of the Fossil Free Bristol University group. Following the completion of her MSc in 2016 Rachel spent time with an indigenous conservation organisation in Belize, recording voices of land rights activists for the Latin American Bureau’s [http://lab.org.uk/] forthcoming book, Voices of Latin America.

The previous blog post in this series is available here.
Back in the SATIIM office in Punta Gorda, I’m invited on a patrol into the Sarstoon Temash National Park led by Maya and Garifuna community members. These monthly forest patrols are an important way of monitoring illegal logging and poaching. They also gather data on the forest’s rich ecosystems, which spread across over 40,000 acres of broadleaf, wetland and mangrove forest, and ten miles of coast in the Gulf of Honduras, a wetlands designated of international importance under the Ramsar Conven…

Reflections on sustainability in my first few months in the U.K.

I’m Michael Donatti, a Cabot Institute Masters Research Fellow for 2016-2017. I have come to the University of Bristol from Houston, Texas, to read for an MSc in Environmental Policy and Management. Alongside studying, I have had the chance to experience this new city and this new country from an outsider’s perspective, and here are some of my initial thoughts on environmental sustainability in Bristol and the UK.

To be quite honest, Bristol is an interesting choice for a European Green Capital city. It lacks the biking infrastructure of Amsterdam, the strict ambition to attain carbon neutrality of Copenhagen, and the abundance of green space of Ljubljana. According to the University of Bristol student newspaper, epigram, 60% of Bristol’s air contains illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide. While walking and running along the streets of Bristol, I have felt this pollution. Partly, the low air quality results from the differing priorities of American and British/European emissions regulat…

Climate negotiations: From Paris to Marrakech and… Trump?

A few weeks ago, Morocco hosted the Twenty-second Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP22), which meant to become the "COP for action". One of the main challenges of this edition was setting the stage for the implementation of the Paris Agreement, adopted by the UNFCCC parties last December.


After the unexpected early entry into force of the Agreement, the COP22 sought to transform Paris discussions into reality and to develop concrete guidelines for achieving the 1.5°C goal. However, this call for climate action was disrupted on its second day by the outcome of the elections in the United States: someone who thinks climate change is a Chinese hoax was elected President of the Unites States.

When I arrived in Marrakech, I was not sure what to expect from the COP22 after that black Tuesday. The scenario was disappointing, but so predictable at the same time; besides the statements of countries such as China, Japan and the European Union ratifying their commitment t…

After 2016; how to achieve more inclusive food policy?

Having spent my British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship researching forms of governance that aspire to achieve that nebulous concept of 'sustainability' in relation to certain parts of the global agro-food/fuel system, it seemed fitting that the last event I attend in this capacity should be City University's annual Food Symposium.  This year's Symposium enabled Prof. Tim Lang, who is passing the baton of running City's influential Food Centre to Prof. Corinna Hawkes, and a number of his colleagues, to reflect on the past 25 years of food policy. But it also provided an unprecedented opportunity to 40 audience members from both academia and civil society to imagine a more utopian future - not difficult in our troubled present - to table their vision of 'How to do food policy better'. We heard from a headteacher, a producer, a proud 'Colombian peasant', a farmer's daughter, a student, the BBC chef of the year, a former advertiser, a community foo…

The Sarstoon-Temash National Park, Belize: Whose land, whose development?

This October I spent time with the Sarstoon-Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM), an NGO which integrates forest conservation with indigenous community development, the only one of its kind in Belize.

The organisation is located in Belize’s southernmost district of Toledo, reachable by a bumpy six hour bus ride from the country’s northern hub, Belize City. Government roadside adverts dot the route advising youngsters to ‘Stay Out of Crime’, and Belizeans to ‘Protect the Cayes and the Mangroves: your social security benefits’. Belize City is beset by gang violence, but high-end eco-tourism is booming in the north around the country’s cayes, beaches, and pristine conservation areas. Over 26% of Belize’s land and territorial waters have been designated as protected areas which play a crucial part in tourism, a major contributor to the economy as its second largest industry, and fuelling growth in many other sectors. The ads tail off by the time we reach Toledo, a safer bu…

1-in-200 year events

You often read or hear references to the ‘1-in-200 year event’, or ‘200-year event’, or ‘event with a return period of 200 years’. Other popular horizons are 1-in-30 years and 1-in-10,000 years. This term applies to hazards which can occur over a range of magnitudes, like volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, space weather, and various hydro-meteorological hazards like floods, storms, hot or cold spells, and droughts.



‘1-in-200 years’ refers to a particular magnitude. In floods this might be represented as a contour on a map, showing an area that is inundated. If this contour is labelled as ‘1-in-200 years’ this means that the current rate of floods at least as large as this is 1/200 /yr, or 0.005 /yr. So if your house is inside the contour, there is currently a 0.005 (0.5%) chance of being flooded in the next year, and a 0.025 (2.5%) chance of being flooded in the next five years. The general definition is this: ‘1-in-200 year magnitude is x’ = ‘the current rate for events wit…

Age of the Anthropocene

“We’ve killed off the dodo, released unprecedented levels of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and raised sea levels: welcome to the Anthropocene, the geological age in which humankind has permanently left our mark on the planet.”
This was the description I gave to my new unit ‘The Age of the Anthropocene’, hoping to catch the attention of second year students keen to explore the impact and meaning of global environmental change. It worked: students from History, English Literature, Religion and Theology, Philosophy, Ancient History, and Study Abroad students joined me this autumn to explore how the notion of the ‘Anthropocene’ has gained traction as a definition of time that recognises the unprecedented Earth-altering impact of the human species. We engaged with debates among scientists and humanities scholars over the concept, while also exploring how it has captured popular and scholarly imagination. 
One of the activities that I looked forward to was holding an inaugural Bristol ‘…