Oct 102015

793b1af2668b7e2ff1b9f29cb3bbfb94-bpfullHumans become unwell and can die from cold and heat.  Shilu Tong has spent the last few years unravelling the effects of both on emergency hospital admissions and deaths.

In addition to assembling the numbers, he has made some forecasts on how human health and mortality will change in a warmer world, using data not only from the Australian city of Brisbane where he’s based (at Queensland University of Technology), but also in a recent study published in the Lancet, globally, with a multi-year data-base of 74 million deaths.

Shilu and colleagues have also listed some important measures policy-makers should consider to respond to this challenge.

 Posted by at 11:55 pm
Oct 032015

Today’s guest, Leah Stokes, has looked deeply into the politics of renewable energy. She outlines Ontario’s solar feed-in tariff experience and the pivotal role of pricing on public support, and how Arizona has become a case-study of regulatory capture by the power utilities.  lstokes-1

She’s studied how voting in Ontario was influenced by local opposition to wind turbines. Was it significant or not?  How far did any voting effects extend? Hear her conclusions and how they exemplify “spatially distorted signalling”.

Finally, Leah explains why India and China are heading down different paths in their approach to mercury emissions from coal-fired power, in the wake of the Minamata Convention – one of the few multilateral enviromental agreements to come to fruition in recent years.

Leah is a political scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. You can learn more about her research here.

 Posted by at 10:55 pm
Sep 262015

Good govedownload (1)rnance and sound policy are under continuous threat from political corruption.  No country is totally free of it. This week’s guest, Elizabeth David-Barrett, has made this area her specialty and discusses with Charles not only the different forms it can take, but also various anti-corruption “counter-measures” in areas ranging from political donations, ministerial diaries, and lobbying to the “revolving door” between public office and business.

Elizabeth has recently made a special study of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which aims to reduce bribery by mining and oil and gas companies in their dealings with the governments of resource-rich countries.  Here she describes how even countries with a history of serious corruption can be motivated to sign up. Elizabeth lectures at the University of Sussex, and has prepared reports on corruption issues in the UK  for Transparency International.

 Posted by at 11:48 pm
Sep 192015

WhySpiteri150 did “pink slime” in human food take so long to appear in the news?  How is our generosity affected by disaster stories? Would voters be influenced by sensational stories even if they are not about the candidates?

This week’s guest, Jonathan Spiteri,  shares his explorations of media bias and advertising, how coverage of stories can influence charitable giving, and how sensational news stories can change the way people vote.

Jonathan uses an interesting mix of economic modelling and survey data to tackle these questions. He’s just completing his PhD in economics at the University of Edinburgh. Read more about his work here.

 Posted by at 11:29 pm
Sep 122015

In this week’s episode Luzia Helfer outlines her clever experiments on the relationship between politicians and journalists  – one of mutual dependence and wariness.LH2

Luzia has taken a novel approach to the topic by running carefully designed experiments with real politicians and political journalists. She has focussed on discovering what features of politician’s messages secure media coverage, and what aspects of news stories prompt politicians to take action. Some of the results may surprise you.

Luzia is in the final stages of her doctorate in political science at the University of Leiden, and is a regular visitor with the University of Antwerp’s Media, Movements and Politics research group.

 Posted by at 9:39 pm
Sep 052015

What role did CLDhina’s 2008 milk contamination scandal play in transforming agriculture and food production in that country? How big is China’s organic food industry today? How tough are its standards?

Dairy products were never traditionally a major part of the Chinese diet, but have Chinese consumers stopped buying dairy products since 2008?

How is the question of public trust shaping food production and oversight in China, and does this hold any more general lessons?

Our guest Leonie Dendler joins us from Shanghai to discuss what she has learned from looking at this microcosm of the Chinese economy.  Leonie conducted her research as part of a research fellowship with Manchester University’s Sustainable Consumption Institute  in collaboration with the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research  at Fudan University, Shanghai.  You can learn more about Leonie’s research here.

 Posted by at 4:40 pm
Aug 282015

KK2The Arctic region is hotting up. Climate change is making its presence felt more strongly at the top of the world than in other regions, and as ice cover declines, speculation about economic exploitation in this harsh and fragile environment has intensified.

Today’s guest, Kathrin Keil,  guides us through what’s currently happening in the Arctic, and what the possibilities are for oil and gas, shipping and fishing.  Who are the main players?  What are some of the current and potential activities? What are the risks and constraints that accompany them? And how well equipped are we to regulate these activities through international cooperation and Arctic governance?

Kathrin is a Project Scientist at the Institute of Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam, Germany, and also serves as Europe Director (Arctic Security, Cooperation, Resources and Institutions) for the Arctic Institute

 Posted by at 1:05 pm
Aug 282015

India needs power. But while coal industry advocates have tried to make energy poverty a moral issue, arguing that renewables cannot meet the demand, NACharles’s guest Nikit Abhyankar from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has been busy working out how India can achieve – or at least get close to achieving – the hugely ambitious goals for renewable energy set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In this episode Nikit outlines the current state of India’s current electricity system, its limitations and financial challenges, and discusses ingenious plans for grid integration of various renewables, the special benefits of electric vehicles for Indian driving conditions, ideas about how the uptake of air conditioning could be managed without making demand sky-rocket, the opportunities for “ultra-efficient” appliances that could help India leapfrog developed countries, and the significant health burden of India continuing its reliance on coal as the mainstay of power generation.

 Posted by at 1:04 pm
Aug 282015

Every Google search and each Facebook post you make are diligently tracked and run through complex algorithms to target online ads at you.   You may find some of the targeted ads useful, other amusing, and picadmcta few slightly sinister.

But is online advertising neutral? Can it exhibit behaviour resembling discrimination?  Can machine learning and statistical analysis turn the table on Google Ads and reveal if they treat people equally?

Amit Datta is a PhD student at Carnegie Mellon University, where Anupam Datta is an Associate Professor, and their colleague Michael Tschantz  is a Senior Researcher at the International Computer Science Institute. Their research paper on this topic can be downloaded from here.

 Posted by at 1:03 pm
Aug 282015

We all love (or at least use) stuff. And it all needs to be moved around. Freight transport efficiency might not seem a particularly appealing topic, but consider for a moment how much extra energy is used moving2ec7232 goods from Point A to Point B, and the additional pollution and emissions that inevitably follow unless freight systems are made as efficient as they can be.

Charles talks with Swedish expert Niklas Arvidsson about his insightful work on this problem.  Is it true that a delivery route can be more efficient in one direction than another? Can trams and light rail deliver things as well as people?  Is “eco-driving” useful?  How much does transport contribute to greenhouse emissions compared to other sectors? You’ll hear answers to these and other questions in this episode.

For more information about Niklas and his work go here, and to read his thought-provoking thesis, follow this link.

 Posted by at 1:02 pm