Archive for the ‘Watch’ Category

Will humans become extinct through climate change?

Posted on: February 27th, 2023 by mlpEditor

Disasters come in many shapes and sizes. One way of looking at them are by their scope: how much of the world and the future do they affect? And by their severity: how bad are they?

Global catastrophic risks are those that affect the entire world, while existential risks are those that threaten all future generations – typically extinction risks. There are many potential threats in these categories, ranging from asteroid impacts to nuclear war. Most are fortunately unlikely to spell our doom… but there are enough of them to make us rightly concerned about our well-being.

While natural risks are unlikely to cause an end of humanity, human-made risks are. What is the role of climate change in this? Direct extinction by a changed climate is very unlikely: it takes very extreme heat to stop an adaptive, technological species that is spread worldwide.

But climate change poses a systemic threat. By stressing nearly every part of the world as we move into a century with many other risks, powerful emerging technologies, and an interconnected and fragile global system, it can amplify other dangers and make them more likely to coincide into vast disasters.

Climate change may not be the end of the world, but it can certainly help it along. Conversely, some (but not all!) ways of handling climate change can reduce large risks.

Global Citizen: reporting for duty

Posted on: December 5th, 2022 by mlpEditor

What role will today’s and tomorrow’s innovators play in helping us survive and thrive?

The global climate crisis. Famine and drought. Population growth. The battle for diminishing resources. These are no longer visions of some future nightmare. We are facing these challenges today.

Scientists have modelled where we are heading and it doesn’t look good. Protesters have taken to the streets. International targets have been agreed and Governments have laid out their plans.

But will they be enough? Pandemics and conflicts soon knock us off course; deadlines are missed and targets slip. So what can we do to protect our future, deal with today’s issues and learn to live with the extra challenges that are coming down the line?

Our world is evolving quickly. Engineering and Technology are right at the heart of the huge transformation we are experiencing. A career in STEM is becoming more than a career. It is a way of life – a consistent source of boundless creativity.

In this event recording, Yewande Akinola shares her discovery of the roles Innovative Engineering and Technology play in bringing progress and true Sustainability to our world. From the development of our built environment to more specific and intentional problem-solving.

Manchester: what changed, and what comes next?

Posted on: November 9th, 2022 by mlpEditor

How has Manchester changed to such an extent? And what lessons does its journey hold for other places?

Guardian columnist John Harris and Sunday Times journalist Hannah Al-Othman both have a long-standing interest in how Manchester has been revived and regenerated over the last 30 years, and the big social issues its transformation has highlighted.

Where is Manchester and its surrounding region now heading?

With Boris Johnson’s ideas about “levelling up” apparently fading and Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham using his new job to carve out a different kind of politics, there are huge questions to address. Not just for Manchester, for the whole of the country.

John and Hannah share and explore their personal perspectives in this ‘in conversation’ style event.

The Northern Powerhouse: where are we now?

Posted on: November 3rd, 2022 by mlpEditor

The Northern Powerhouse launched over a decade ago, to boost northern economic growth and to rebalance the UK economy. But where are we now?

The government doesn’t talk much about the Northern Powerhouse now, preferring the broader ‘levelling-up’ concept.  But the challenges, and the opportunities, remain. We can’t recreate the old industries. We have to somehow re-invent and re-invigorate areas that have suffered long term economic decline. And it’s not going to be easy.

From here in Manchester, reaching out to Liverpool in the West and Leeds and Sheffield in the East, we have a population of about 8 million.  This is not too dissimilar to London. Could this area become an integrated single market for producers and consumers, with spin-off benefits for the whole of the North?

Lord Jim O’Neill is one of the Northern Powerhouse’s original architects and a major contributor to its early successes. In this talk, he names six individual challenges that have to be solved: education; skills; devolution; business connectivity; transport; and technology infrastructure.  And he is clear that all six will need to be solved if the Powerhouse objectives are to be achieved. So, is the government serious?


Pandemic Resilience: how to control a virus

Posted on: October 13th, 2022 by mlpEditor

What role does the environment play in the transmission of respiratory diseases? And how do our interactions in indoor spaces determine the risk of infection?

COVID-19 has presented us with the most difficult healthcare and societal challenge we have faced in living memory. As a new disease, we have had to rapidly build the knowledge base on every aspect of the virus.  To understand the mechanisms of transmission we have had to draw on experiences with other respiratory viruses. And the growing evidence based on the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Understanding the routes of transmission is challenging. But modelling of aerosols, droplets and indoor airflows can play an important role in identifying mechanisms.

Catherine Noakes’ talk outlines some of the approaches used to understand mechanisms for transference and the effectiveness of mitigation strategies.  She highlights some of the scientific understanding and how that has changed as we have learned more about the disease.

How is scientific advice used to support policymakers and public messaging? And what are the challenges and complexities in this process?

“I danced here on other peoples’ dreams”

Posted on: August 15th, 2022 by mlpEditor

How can we build a more diverse, respectful and inclusive society?

Award-winning author, journalist, broadcaster and academic, Professor Gary Younge, shares his personal journey. From growing up as a child in a single parent home to becoming an author and professor.

He reflects on the collective struggles of those that have gone before him. And how it was only through those struggles that opportunities were created for others.

Gary writes:

The diverse, inclusive, respectful society that we wish to build does not exist yet; it is constantly in the making.  We are in some senses closer than we were; although what is gained in one quarter is often conceded in another.  But in almost every sense we are not even close to where we need to be.

The COVID pandemic laid bare both our vulnerabilities and potential.  It exposed the inequalities and precarities that are the fault lines of societal unrest and global inequities.  It has also made the case, as no politician can, that there is such a thing as the common good, that we have a collective responsibility for our common wellbeing and that we are capable of adapting to meet the challenge. We all suffered and we all made sacrifices; we did not, however suffer or sacrifice equally.

But in order to build that diverse, inclusive, respectful world we must first imagine it.  That is precisely what oppressed people have been doing for centuries as they fought for rights that seemed impossible and a world they could not see.  Whatever diversity, inclusivity and respect we have attained thus far has not been the inevitable product of decency, natural evolution or time and tide; it is the product of struggle by generations of people who waged battles they were unlikely to win for a world they did not know was possible.  People who fought not because victory was plausible but because not fighting ensured defeat.

That is also the story of my own unlikely journey from a single parent migrant home to being an author and professor.  But while it is my personal story, it’s not just my personal achievement.  It was the collective struggles of others that have gone before me that made that journey possible.  That suggests that there are myriad other journeys, yet to be made to destinations unknown, that we can make possible through our struggles today.

Looking inside volcanoes

Posted on: August 15th, 2022 by mlpEditor

Volcanoes are big, hot, loud, and scary.  Because of this, we know little of their internal structure or underlying ‘plumbing system’, despite them representing a global natural hazard.

In this talk, Professor Christopher Jackson shows how new 3D seismic imaging techniques – essentially X-ray scanning of the Earth – can be used to illuminate the structure of volcanoes and the evolution of their underlying ‘hot rocks’.

Christopher is passionate about communicating science to the public and was one of the Royal Institution Christmas lecturers in 2020 for the series ‘Planet Earth – a user’s guide’, focussing on how we can achieve a sustainable future.

He has also appeared in ‘Expedition Volcano’ a BBC2 series with a team of international volcanologists visiting two of the world’s most volatile and spectacular volcanoes – in DRC and Rwanda.  He released a very well-received Audible podcast ‘The Grown Up’s Guide to Planet Earth’.

Christopher is keen to inspire young people in science, particularly from under-represented groups, aiming for a future geoscience community that is far more diverse and inclusive.

What drives Russia to confront the West?

Posted on: August 15th, 2022 by mlpEditor

*This online event took place in January 2021, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The relationship between Russia and the West is once again deep in crisis. Russia’s actions since 2014 have removed all doubt in Europe and North America on the nature of the challenge from Moscow. But why does Russia behave like this and what are the driving factors for its clear enmity towards the West?

The answer can be found in seeing the world as it looks from Moscow.  Through Western eyes, Russia appears unpredictable and irrational.  Yet Russian leaders from the czars to Vladimir Putin have followed a consistent internal logic when dealing with their own country and the world outside.

In fact, what surprises some Western observers so much about Moscow’s current behaviour is simply Russia reverting to type.  But this also gives the West pointers for how to behave — and how not to — to rebuild a working relationship with Russia.

Hopes for a better relationship with Moscow must not be based on the assumption that Moscow will change in the short term.  Instead, the fundamental requirement for a stable and realistic relationship is recognition that Russia is not, and never has been, part of the West. And it does not share its assumptions, goals, values or interests.

Climate change: the urgency for action now

Posted on: August 11th, 2022 by mlpEditor

Policy positions and interventions show global warming is still underestimated, or misunderstood. Can we still win back the chance of surviving and thriving?

In this talk, Professor Sir David King argues that ‘climate repair’ offers a scalable, safe recipe for future climate stability.  The strategy applies immediate climate repair measures: very rapid progress to net zero global emissions; additional reduction of the volume of atmospheric greenhouse gases; and halting the heating of the Earth and its oceans. ‘Climate repair’ will refreeze Earth’s poles and the glaciers of the Himalayas. It will stabilise sea level and break feedback loops that relentlessly accelerate global warming.

Net zero emissions exist as a target for about 70% of the world’s economies, over a range of timescales.  This target offers an important starting point for climate repair.  But emissions reductions must become more rapid than current proposals. And combined with speedy expansion of carbon sinks to create negative growth of atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHGs).

‘Net-zero’ alone is insufficient. Net-negative emissions will provide foundations for shifting current dangerous GHGs back towards pre-industrial levels that underpinned stable, hospitable climate patterns for millennia.

We can choose our future

Posted on: August 11th, 2022 by mlpEditor

Would you change your flying habits or aspirations to combat climate change?

Anthropogenic climate change is the greatest challenge that humanity has ever faced.  Yet the fact that we know humans created this challenge can be empowering. It means that we have some control over how much future climate change we will all need to adapt to.

In richer countries, our per person emissions are very high and will need to be cut significantly. Our choices also have an influence over others’ futures, where per person emissions are very low. And these tend to be places where climate impacts will be most keenly felt.

Professor Alice Larkin’s talk focusses on the scale of the climate change challenge and why it matters that we make different choices now.  In particular, it will use aviation and shipping to highlight some of what needs to change, and how to influence it.

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