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Air pollution is a problem in many parts of the world, but especially India, China, Bangladesh and a number of other countries in Asia. During the World Economic Forum it was announced that India has the world’s worst air quality. Is the air pollution experienced in these countries primarily due to human activities such as heavy industry? Likely. A combination of emissions from vehicles, coal power plants and other sources is enough to make populations vulnerable to diseases caused by breathing in polluted air. But it’s not like this is a new problem, many of the more developed countries have had similar if not the same problems with poor air quality and in many cases still do. For example, London’s air decreases the life expectancy of its residents. Read more
Talk given by the Dalai Lama at the University of California, San Diego in the US. It begins around 30.24.
Guidance about the global environmental impacts of climate change is badly needed not only from scientists, but many other influential voices including politicians, journalists, activists and spiritual leaders.
The 14th Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, is no exception when describing the need to act about climate change. In a US embassy cable he said ‘the international community should shift its focus to climate change on the Tibetan plateau’. The majority of glaciers in the region of Tibet are retreating rapidly according to a study published in Nature Climate Change and this could cause widespread damage to communities living in the region, not to mention the planet as a whole especially if this rate of melting continues. The question I wish to present here is whether or not these voices outside science, such as the Dalai Lama, will play an increasing role in how people talk about climate change, in particular how it is framed in terms of risk. Read more
An official trailer of the documentary Chasing Ice that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival early this year is now available. Chasing Ice could potentially get people thinking about climate change in new ways beyond modelling, charts and graphs and polarised debates about IPCC future climate projections and the existence of human-induced climate change itself. This film could be politicised on multiple scales, yet it seems smart enough to stand on its own above the political squabbling. But whether it will get large numbers of people to think about the Earth’s changing environments that we live in and the influence of climate change will be interesting to see.
It seems a subject-driven film meaning it is focused on the work of National Geographic photographer James Balog (who uses high res time-lapse cameras to capture stunning footage of glaciers in the arctic melting at astounding rates) rather than an expository or argument-based piece which was the case of An Inconvenient Truth that starred US former vice president Al Gore and was a catalyst for public awareness, skepticism and alarmism surrounding the science of climate change. Read more
How do you identify tipping points before they occur? This question is being asked by many scientists including those in the Tipping Points project about how early warning signals could be detected before a system – a biological, climate or even economic one – tips into an entirely different state. Many researchers are concerned that the Earth itself will undergo a critical transition that will cause radical physical, ecological and social changes that are also difficult to anticipate. One of the main drivers of this is climate change, but others are also included. The world could likely experience unprecedented transformation on a number of different scales, but when this will occur is difficult to say.
It may already be happening as signs of the planet’s changing climate have indicated. But have we passed a tipping point? Are the changes inevitable and is there no turning back? These two questions in particular have sparked a frenzy in the popular media. A recent study published in Nature, ‘Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere’, reviews research on different parts of the Earth’s biosphere providing context and useful knowledge for understanding the critical state of the planet at this time.
Governing scientific and technological innovations is tricky business. This is primarily due to the presence of uncertainty, the risks that society must face if it chooses to intervene using methods that could either have damaging consequences, fail entirely or both. Everyone knows it’s a clique of course, but we really do ‘live in exciting times’ as humanity has at hand an array of advanced technologies at its disposal. But climate change is in a sense antithesis to technological development or at least to how it has proceeded thus far, mostly because the world is locked into using fossil fuels as its primary source of energy. Yet the controversial applications of geoengineering may prove a last resort for reducing the temperature of the planet preventing devastating environmental impacts induced by climate change. Read more