Blog posts

Resilience to environmental hazards

This blog post by Malcom Graham, an SSCP DTP student, is part of a series on Responding to Environmental Change, an event organised by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funded Doctoral Training Partnerships at Imperial (SSCP), and the University of Reading and the University of Surrey (SCENARIO).

See the full list of blogs in this series here.

Environmental hazards are becoming more frequent and severe, with potentially serious impacts on people, supply chains and infrastructure globally. Advancing our knowledge and understanding of these hazards, and the processes involved, will allow us to better predict, plan for and manage the risks in order to increase resilience to these changes.

Managing environmental change

This blog post by Rebecca Emerton, a Scenario DTP student at University of Reading, is part of a series on Responding to Environmental Change, an event organised by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funded Doctoral Training Partnerships at Imperial (SSCP), and the University of Reading and the University of Surrey (SCENARIO).

See the full list of blogs in this series here.

In addition to natural variability, human activities are causing rapid, large-scale climate and environmental change. Understanding how these processes work as a whole Earth system can improve our understanding of the impacts of these changes and inform responsible management.

The Road to Paris 2015 – the UK’s postition

The Climate and Environment at Imperial blog has moved. View this post on our new blog

This blog post by Samantha Buzzard, a NERC student at the University of Reading, is part of a series on Responding to Environmental Change, an event organised by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funded Doctoral Training Partnerships at Imperial (SSCP), and the University of Reading and the University of Surrey (SCENARIO).

See the full list of blogs in this series here.

To conclude the Responding to Environmental Change meeting Matthew Bell, Chief Executive of the Committee on Climate Change, outlined the position of the UK in relation to climate change and the issues that could be faced at the Paris Climate Conference (COP 21) at the end of this year.

The Post-2015 Goals: Environmental Sustainability, Science and Development

By Bora Ristic, Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet DTP student

This week, the next round of UN negotiations on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are under way in New York. The SDGs aim to coordinate and promote development across the world in critical areas, including health, education, governance, and environment amongst others. Imperial College PhDs (myself included) recently exchanged ideas with David Hallam from the Department for International Development about his current work on the SDGs to be agreed later this year. The talk centred on how this ambitious global development effort could be successful and, very broadly, what role science and the environmental research being conducted at Imperial can play.

Meeting global water needs: More than a pipe dream

The Climate and Environment at Imperial blog has moved. View this post on our new blog 

by Dr Karl Smith, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Every waking hour, I ingest water. Not always in its purest form, but near enough. Energy is important and right now (and rightly so), carbon is capturing headlines.  But water is fundamental to our livelihoods.

The UN has designated 22 March World Water Day: “a day to celebrate water”.  And why not? Never mind that it’s essential to all life forms. For modern living, it’s  a necessity: we need 10 litres of water to make one sheet of paper; 182 litres to make a kilo of plastic. 

Time to Act climate march – what was missing?

by Jonathan Bosch

On Saturday, 7th March 2015, I attended the Time to Act climate march. After a winding route through the historic streets of central London, an impromptu sit-down on the Strand, and a spirit-raising day under an early spring sun, we converged on Parliament Square where a number of speakers from charities, trade unions, political parties and other activist groups launched their rallying cries for climate justice, aiming their anger squarely upon the walls of the houses of parliament: the centre of British democracy – those with the power to make change, but who perhaps far too often stand in its way.

High altitude agriculture – The challenges of adapting to the changing water supply in the Himalayas

by Bhopal Pandeya, Research Associate (ESPA Fellowship), Grantham Institute

Mountains are often referred to as ‘water towers’ as they provide fresh water to people and biodiversity. The Himalayan region is one of the few hot spots where several big rivers originate and supply water to hundreds of millions of people across the mountains and further downstream. However, higher up in the mountains especially in trans-Himalayan region, there is very little accessible water for local communities. The region receives very low rainfall and thus water supply is largely dependent on the timely occurrence of snow fall and ice melts in the upper mountains.

Hard Evidence: will climate change affect the spread of tropical diseases?

The Climate and Environment at Imperial blog has moved. View this post on our new blog 

By Dr Paul Parham, Honorary Lecturer in Infectious Disease Epidemiology

Many tropical diseases such as malaria, Chagas disease and dengue are transmitted to humans via mosquitoes and other carriers known as vectors. These vector-borne diseases continue to have a major impact on human health in the developing world: each year, more than a billion people become infected and around a million people die. In addition, around one in six cases of illness and disability worldwide arise from these diseases.

Malaria arguably continues to attract the most attention of all the vector-borne diseases by virtue of causing the greatest global disease burden.

The global health benefits of tackling climate change

The Climate and Environment at Imperial blog has moved. View this post on our new blog 

by Professor Paolo Vineis and Pauline Scheelbeek, School of Public Health

It is sometimes claimed that addressing climate change with proper policies is too expensive and could lead to a further decline in the economy. However, the co-benefits of implementation of climate change mitigation strategies for the health sector are usually overlooked. The synergy between policies for climate change mitigation in sectors such as energy use (e.g. for heating), agriculture, food production and transportation may have overall benefits that are much greater than the sum of single interventions (Haines et al, 2009).

With climate models, simpler isn’t necessarily better

Grantham Institute Co-Director Professor Joanna Haigh discusses a recent paper which argues that  existing climate models ‘run hot’ and overstate the extent of manmade climate change.

It is perplexing that some climate change sceptics, who expend much energy in decrying global circulation (computer) models of the climate, on the basis that they cannot properly represent the entire complexities of the climate system and/or that they contain too many approximations, are now resorting to an extremely simplified model to support their arguments.

The model used in the Sci. Bull. article is a very useful tool for conceptualising the factors which contribute to the relationship between increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and global average temperature – indeed, we use such models as teaching aids for students studying atmospheric physics – but it is in no way fit for purpose as an accurate predictor of climate change.  

Internship Experiences: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

The Climate and Environment at Imperial blog has moved. View this post on our new blog

by Peter Blair, Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet DTP student

The Thames Basin is set to face many challenges in the future: climate change, a growing population and economic requirements all present developmental challenges, as well as major sources of uncertainty. Having previously worked on a voluntary project producing a vision for planning in the Great Lakes Basin over the next hundred years, Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM) were interested in applying the same methodology to the Thames Basin to determine how we may best plan for the future in this area.

2014 – the warmest year on record

A summary of global temperature for 2014 from NASA and NOAA has just been published, showing that the average global temperature for 2014 was 0.69°C above the average for the 20th century. The small margin of uncertainty in calculating average global temperature means that the exact ranking of 2014 cannot be distinguished from the previous record years of 2005 and 2010, but it is nominally the warmest year on record. The ten warmest years have all occurred since 1998.

Professor Jo Haigh, Co-Director of the Grantham Institute, commented on the report saying that: “This and other indicators are all pointing in the same direction of continued global warming, reflecting the overall upward trend in average global temperatures”

A large amount of warming was seen in the oceans with globally-averaged sea surface temperature 0.57°C

Who’s responsible for tackling climate change? – COP 20 outcomes

By Dr Flora WhitmarshGrantham Institute

An agreement produced by the 20th Conference of the Parties in Lima, Peru, noted ‘with grave concern’ that countries’ current pledges on emissions reductions are insufficient to keep global temperature rise within either 2°C or 1.5°C of pre-industrial levels. This is indeed a serious concern because temperature changes of just a few degrees are enough to change the climate significantly. Rising sea levels, melting mountain glaciers and polar ice caps and increases in extreme precipitation have already been observed. These trends will continue with ongoing greenhouse gas emissions, and it is expected that we will continue to see an increase in extreme high sea levels, an increase in the intensity of the heaviest rain, and changes in the global distribution of rainfall.

Climate change: positive messages on the international scene

By Dr Flora WhitmarshGrantham Institute

This blog forms part of a series addressing some of the criticisms often levelled against efforts to mitigate climate change.

The Twentieth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 20) – the latest in a series of meetings of the decision making body of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change –began in Lima this week. Many in the media are quick to point to the difficulty of obtaining international agreement on greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and to denounce COP 15, which took place in Copenhagen in 2009, as a failure.

Why subsidise renewable energy?

by Ajay Gambhir, Grantham Institute

This blog forms part of a series addressing some of the criticisms often levelled against efforts to mitigate climate change.

It is often claimed that intermittent renewable sources of electricity (mainly wind and solar photovoltaics), are too expensive, inefficient and unreliable and that we shouldn’t subsidise them.

What are the facts?

Last year, governments spent about $550 billion of public money on subsidies for fossil fuels, almost twice as much as in 2009 and about five times as much as they spent subsidising renewables (IEA, World Energy Outlook 2014). This despite a G20 pledge in 2009 to “phase out and rationalize over the medium term inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” that “encourage wasteful consumption, reduce our energy security, impede investment in clean energy sources and undermine efforts to deal with the threat of climate change”.