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Showing posts from September, 2021

Insulate Britain: blocking roads will alienate some people – but it’s still likely to be effective

Insulate Britain is a campaign group urging government action on greenhouse gas emissions and fuel poverty in the country’s housing stock. Their methods have recently landed them in the news, as activists blocked parts of the M25 – the motorway surrounding London – by sitting on slip roads and in the carriageway until their removal by police. The long delays their protests caused drew outrage from motorists and much of the media that reported it. So what is the purpose of this kind of disruption, made popular in recent years by Extinction Rebellion (XR)? The American sociologist Charles Tilly argued that all protest actions were what he called WUNC displays: shows of worthiness, unity, numbers and commitment. The goal was not to stop or make something happen directly, but to demonstrate the strength and appeal and values of the protesters, so that both those in power and the general public would listen to their message. Direct action groups tend to be slightly different from tr

Tackling urban landslides in an uncertain future

One of the challenges of the 21st century is how to reconcile global urban growth with the prevention and mitigation of environmental disasters, such as those caused by landslides. Every year 300 million people are exposed to landslides worldwide, with over 4,000 fatalities, 250,000 of people affected, and billions of US dollars of economic damage. However, impacts might be worse in the future for two main reasons. First, severe precipitations might become more frequent under climate change, causing more rainfall-triggered landslides. Second, growing urban population will lead more people to live in areas exposed to landslides globally, and in particular in developing countries where low-income dwellers are starting to overcrowd landslide-prone areas such as steep slopes. With more hurricanes to come and more people at risk, understanding where and when landslides might occur is becoming increasingly crucial. Current predictions are too uncertain to support decisions One method to pred

Time for policymakers to make policies (and to learn from those who are)

From a social scientist’s point of view, the recent IPCC report and the reception it has received are a bit odd. The report certainly reflects a huge amount of work, its message is vital, and it’s great so many people are hearing it. But not much in the report updates how we think about climate change . We’ve known for a while that people are changing the climate, and that how much more the climate changes will depend on the decisions we make. What decisions? The Summary for Policymakers — the scientists’ memo to the people who will make the really important choices—doesn’t say. The words “fossil fuel”, “oil”, and “coal” never even appear. Nor “regulation”, “ban”, “subsidy”, or “tax”. The last five pages of the 42-page Summary are entitled “Limiting Future Climate Change”; but while “policymakers” appear, “policies” do not. This is not the fault of the authors; Working Group I’s remit does not include policy recommendations. Even Working Group III (focused on mitigation) is not allow