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The UK’s chief government scientist Sir John Beddington announced that world leaders need to urgently tackle climate change, especially because of increasing trends towards more extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and storms over the next 25 years. The more extreme and erratic forms of weather that the UK has experienced in recent years may become more common due to a changing climate.
Prof Sarah Curtis who is the Executive Director of the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience was interviewed by both television and radio media recently about what can be expected for the future. Prof Curtis mentioned the importance of planning with local authorities and national planning being taken by government to adapt to a changing climate, and that focused preparation and planning are needed to cope with variable climate and extreme weather events. Read more
While climate takes place over much longer periods of time than weather people can still perceive it with some level of accuracy. A range of recent studies have shown that climate knowledge can spread through communities within a number of different settings. Indigenous communities for example, many of whom live most of their lives outdoors, likely experience changes in climate much differently from people who spend most of their time indoors within more controlled settings (see Making indigenous voices on climate change heard).
The context of climate change is important for communicating its impacts on the planet and society. If climate change science can’t relate to people’s everyday lives it makes it seem less important, even though we may have only a small glimpse of what climate change actually means for the planet as a whole and the flora and fauna that inhabit it.
In many cases people’s ideas about climate change may come primarily from the mass media, but to see this problem of climate communication as the responsibility of the media alone seems rather unrealistic. The fact remains that most media organisations have their own values embedded within their respective institutions and they normally succumb to market demands, rather than social or cultural values that are much wider ranging and long-term including those of science. Reportage of climate change is often influenced by political orientation especially for publications that give ‘climate scepticism’ equal footing with scientific consensus on climate change. Read more
What led to the spread of tuberculosis in cattle and badgers in Britain? This podcast narrated by Paul Ging includes a highly informative interview with Prof Peter Atkins who led two recent studies on the subject with PhD student Philip Robinson from the Department of Geography at Durham University.
While the controversial badger cull to be implemented this summer by government has led to a polarised debate between securing the welfare of the country’s badgers and protecting farmers’ cattle, research led by Atkins provides historical insights that could help better inform policy in preventing the spread of TB.
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An interesting point to note is that the Randomised Badger Culling Trial, which is often referred to as evidence that culling badgers will control bovine tuberculosis, came to the following overall conclusion, which appears inconsistent with assertions made by government today: Read more
Accounting for changes in landslide patterns with time is very difficult. Collecting the underlying datasets is problematic in itself (still requiring mapping by hand in most cases) and, of course, landslides result from a combination of a whole range of natural and human factors, all of which change with time. It has been frequently postulated that one of the underlying causes of the increase in landslides in mountain areas in less developed countries is road building – indeed in a paper that I wrote with some colleagues a few years ago (Petley et al. 2007 – drop me a line if you want a copy) we proposed that inappropriately engineered road construction might account in large part for the increase in landslide impacts in Nepal over the last 20 years or so.
As part of the Earthquakes Without Frontiers project we will once again be working in Nepal over the next few years. I am genuinely delighted about this – Nepal is a quite wonderful country, but the landslide problem there is severe. The main aspect of our work will be to think about the threat posed by earthquake-induced landslides, and a major issue here is the way that road networks will be disrupted when a large earthquake occurs. So, this morning I was looking at the ways that road building has changed the landscape in Nepal in recent years, and came across this really interesting example from Central Nepal. The area in question lies close to the Prithvi Highway, which is the main access road from the southern plains through the mountains to Kathmandu. The rural road in question, which is in the very southeast of Gorkha District, is a small road that links to the main Prithvi Highway and passes through a settlement called Ghyalchok before climbing over the ridge, ultimately joining another road near a settlement called Darbung Phant (see Figure 1 below). The mountains here are large, but they are not the huge snow-capped high Himalaya to the north. The road, which starts at about 300 m above sea level and climbs to about 1300 m, was presumably constructed to link the many ridge-top communities to the main road network, and as such is typical of thousands of roads being built in Nepal. The road, which is almost certainly unsurfaced, can be seen as a thin brown line on Fig 1.
Dr Chris Massey, a researcher with GNS Science in New Zealand is currently visiting the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience. During the 2011 Christchurch earthquake large boulders were unhinged from extremely steep slopes and crashed into houses below (see Christchurch earthquake secondary hazards). In this highly informative and exciting video, Chris presents some of the work they’re doing in studying how large rocks travel down steep slopes.