Was COP21 a failure or a success?

In the aftermath of the COP21 climate change conference, the debate over whether the Paris Agreement is a success or a failure is going full blast. Among other things, the deal sets a high aspirational goal to limit warming below 2C and strive to keep temperatures at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. This is a far…

‘This hope is real’: how COP21 frames the future

Who would have bet any meaningful amount of money, a month ago, that most of the world would sign up to 1.5 degrees at COP21? Of course there were celebrations on Saturday when Laurent Fabius banged his little green gavel down to mark the agreement. Most of those in the room had toiled for long…

Video: Andy Stirling on research methods and policy

In this video, STEPS Co-director Andy Stirling talks about the need to fully understand what qualitative and quantitative methods are before evaluating their role in science policy making. Andy’s presentation was part of the National Centre for Research Methods seminar held in British Academy, London on 27 October 2015. More on Methods Browse our Methods…

How to prevent epidemics: an optimist’s blog

  “The optimist is someone who believes the future is uncertain.” Leo Szilard   When I first studied epidemiology several decades ago, a story made the rounds that was supposed to make us feel that we were smart. If an old man came into a medical clinic with diarrhoea, the doctor would treat it. If…

China’s largest wind farm and the politics of renewable energy

by Wei Shen and Sam Geall As negotiators enter the crucial final week of the UN-led Paris climate-change conference, much of the cautious optimism is pinned on big changes in China’s real economy. A strong climate change agreement is now in China’s self-interest, runs the prevailing argument – in large part, thanks to its aggressive…

Carbon forestry in Africa: who wins?

2015 is a crucial moment for sustainability and climate change, with the Conference of the Parties (COP) in Paris following hard on the heels of the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals. What to do about carbon, forests, and forest management are crucial questions in reaching global agreements. But as recent research in Africa’s forest landscapes…

‘All eyes on Paris’: climate talks in a heightened security context

For the past few weeks, all eyes have been on Paris because of two major events. The first is the seven coordinated terrorist attacks that hit the French capital on 13 November, killing 130 ordinary citizens, left many in shock, and led to an outpouring of messages of solidarity from around the world. Second, Paris…

Escaping the frames of war

The world is now witnessing yet one further bout in a perennial tragedy. As so often before, organised violence is being used as an instrument of politics. This is no less obscene for being so familiar. And the pathology is all the more distressing, for being so pervasive. A diversity of political perspectives are implicated….

Africa’s land rush

There is a rush on for African farmland – a phenomenon unmatched since colonial times. Africa’s land rush, and the implications for rural livelihoods and agrarian change, is the subject of a new book that I have edited together with Ruth Hall (from PLAAS at UWC, South Africa) and Dzodzi Tsikata (ISSER, University of Ghana at Legon)….

COP21: How can climate-friendly innovation flourish in developing countries?

For low carbon development to work well, innovation is crucial. Both technological hardware like solar panels and grids, and social and institutional structures, need to change as the world looks towards a lower-carbon future. At a side event at the COP21 climate conference on Tuesday, Dr Rob Byrne (STEPS Centre/Sussex Energy Group) talked about how…