Starting in Paris on 30 November 2015, COP21 is tasked to set the world on a path to
address the greatest challenge to ever face humankind, by adopting a new climate agreement.
The Paris agreement is expected to bring states out of the impasse that has long affected international climate governance. Eversince the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992, states have attempted to agree on measures to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent ‘dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.’ The international scientific body entrusted to assess climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has indicated that such a level entails keeping below a 2° C increase in global annual average temperature compared with pre-industrial times.
Keeping the buzz on – interdisciplinary reflection on the protection of bees The controversial path: the prohibition of neonicotinoids
In 1994, French beekeepers started to blow the whistle on the abnormal behaviour and disappearance of their bee colonies foraging on sunflowers and maize. Quickly, beekeepers considered “Gaucho”, a new neonicotinoid authorised the same year for the treatment of sunflower and maize seeds, as the prime suspect.
Were these two events linked by a causal relation or purely coincidental? Neonicotinoids are chemicals which attack the nervous system of all insects, and thus can have a lethal impact on bees. They were nonetheless authorised, under the condition that they are not to be used over a dose previously identified by the industry, and accepted by the regulator, as being non-lethal for bees. However, french beekeepers observations questioned the scientific grounds of this decision. Was the non-lethal dose correctly identified? Furthermore, do neonicotinoid insecticides have chronic sub-lethal effects on bees which were not foreseen when they were authorised?
We care about bees. Bees are unusual insects in that we humans find them so appealing. The publicity about the decline of bee populations has led to people donning bee costumes and lobbying parliaments about pesticides, the planting of wild meadows and the lobbing of wild flower ‘seed bombs’ into uncultivated ground. Urban beekeeping is fashionable, and bumblebee sightings are recorded on Twitter. Bees contribute to our economy through pollination: one third of the plants that we eat are insect pollinated. Bees are also important for other species. We do not care about other insects (pollinating or otherwise) in the same way as we do about bees, even though other insect species are also under threat. Perhaps we can see bees as the pandas of the insect world: they are charismatic and draw attention to problems that also endanger many other insects.
Dr Meriwether Wilson
Over 100 years ago, a fierce philosophical debate circled the salons, cafes, balls and bars of intellectuals and pioneers alike – often known as the ‘American wilderness’ debate. The legendary icons of this debate included: John Muir (originally from Dunbar, Scotland), founder of the Sierra Club and pivotal in establishing globally famous wilderness areas such as Yosemite National Park in western California; and Gilbert Pinchot, who took the view that these same vast areas of seemingly infinite forest and water resources, were ideal for logging, providing timber for America’s growing cities and towns.
Dr James Harrison
The presence of minerals on the deep seabed was first discovered by the HMS Challenger expedition in 1873. Polymetallic nodules and other seabed resources (polymetallic sulphides and crusts) offer abundant supplies of valuable minerals, including manganese, cobalt, copper, gold, silver and several so-called rare earth elements.
Last Wednesday along with six other PhD students, I met Sir John Beddington former chief scientific adviser to Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government. Sir John was a very pleasant and down to earth academic who showed genuine enthusiasm for the work which the different PhD students presented to him.
I was recently asked to consider the question “What will be the impact of your research in 2025?” As a second year PhD student, the focus of my research is very much on the present (How are my interviews going? Am I finding answers to the question I’m investigating? How am I going to write it all up?). Being asked to take a step back and think about the ‘impact’ of my research ten years down the line was quite a daunting proposal.
The 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has been ratified by virtually all states in the world. The Convention acknowledges that the adverse effects of global climate change are a common concern of humankind, and undertakes to achieve ‘stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.’