Are you a journalist looking for climate experts for COP28? We’ve got you covered

COP28 logo

We’ve got lots of media trained climate change experts. If you need an expert for an interview, here is a list of our experts you can approach. All media enquiries should be made via Victoria Tagg, our dedicated Media and PR Manager at the University of Bristol. 

Email or call +44 (0)117 428 2489.

Climate change / climate emergency / climate science / climate-induced disasters

Dr Eunice Lo – expert in changes in extreme weather events such as heatwaves and cold spells, and how these changes translate to negative health outcomes including illnesses and deaths. Follow on Twitter/X @EuniceLoClimate.

Professor Daniela Schmidt – expert in the causes and effects of climate change on marine systems. Dani is also a Lead Author on the IPCC reports.

Dr Katerina Michalides – expert in drylands, drought and desertification and helping East African rural communities to adapt to droughts and future climate change. Follow on Twitter/X @_kmichaelides.

Professor Dann Mitchell – expert in how climate change alters the atmospheric circulation, extreme events, and impacts on human health. Dann is also a Met Office Chair. Follow on Twitter/X @ClimateDann.

Professor Dan Lunt – expert on past climate change, with a focus on understanding how and why climate has changed in the past and what we can learn about the future from the past. Dan is also a Lead Author on IPCC AR6. Follow on Twitter/X @ClimateSamwell.

Professor Jonathan Bamber – expert on the impact of melting land ice on sea level rise (SLR) and the response of the ocean to changes in freshwater forcing. Follow on Twitter/X @jlbamber

Professor Paul Bates CBE – expert in the science of flooding, risk and reducing threats to life and economic losses worldwide. Follow on Twitter/X @paul_d_bates

Dr Matt Palmer – expert in sea level and ocean heat content at the Met Office Hadley Centre and University of Bristol. Follow on Twitter/X @mpclimate.

Professor Guy Howard – expertise in building resilience and supporting adaptation in water systems, sanitation, health care facilities, and housing. Expert in wider infrastructure resilience assessment.

Net Zero / Energy / Renewables

Dr Caitlin Robinson – expert on energy poverty and energy justice and also in mapping ambient vulnerabilities in UK cities. Caitlin will be virtually attending COP28. Follow on Twitter/X @CaitHRobin.

Professor Philip Taylor – Expert in net zero, energy systems, energy storage, utilities, electric power distribution. Also Pro-Vice Chancellor at the University of Bristol. Follow on Twitter/X @rolyatlihp.

Dr Colin Nolden – expert in sustainable energy policyregulation and business models and interactions with secondary markets such as carbon markets and other sectors such as mobility. Colin will be in attendance in the Blue Zone at COP28 during week 2.

Professor Charl Faul – expert in novel functional materials for sustainable energy applications e.g. in CO2 capture and conversion and energy storage devices.  Follow on Twitter/X @Charl_FJ_Faul.

Climate finance / Loss and damage

Dr Rachel James – Expert in climate finance, damage, loss and decision making. Also has expertise in African climate systems and contemporary and future climate change. Follow on Twitter/X @_RachelJames.

Dr Katharina Richter – expert in decolonial environmental politics and equitable development in times of climate crises. Also an expert on degrowth and Buen Vivir, two alternatives to growth-based development from the Global North and South. Katarina will be virtually attending COP28. @DrKatRichter.

Climate justice

Dr Alix Dietzel – climate justice and climate policy expert. Focusing on the global and local scale and interested in how just the response to climate change is and how we can ensure a just transition. Alix will be in attendance in the Blue Zone at COP28 during week 1. Follow on Twitter/X @alixdietzel.

Dr Ed Atkins – expert on environmental and energy policy, politics and governance and how they must be equitable and inclusive. Also interested in local politics of climate change policies and energy generation and consumption. Follow on Twitter/X @edatkins_.

Dr Karen Tucker – expert on colonial politics of knowledge that shape encounters with indigenous knowledges, bodies and natures, and the decolonial practices that can reveal and remake them. Karen will be in attending the Blue Zone of COP28 in week 2.

Climate change and health

Dr Dan O’Hare – expert in climate anxiety and educational psychologist. Follow on Twitter/X @edpsydan.

Professor Dann Mitchell – expert in how climate change alters the atmospheric circulation, extreme events, and impacts on human health. Dann is also a Met Office Chair. Follow on Twitter/X @ClimateDann.

Dr Eunice Lo – expert in changes in extreme weather events such as heatwaves and cold spells, and how these changes translate to negative health outcomes including illnesses and deaths. Follow on Twitter/X @EuniceLoClimate.

Professor Guy Howard – expert in influence of climate change on infectious water-related disease, including waterborne disease and vector-borne disease.

Professor Rachael Gooberman-Hill – expert in health research, including long-term health conditions and design of ways to support and improve health. @EBIBristol (this account is only monitored in office hours).

Youth, children, education and skills

Dr Dan O’Hare – expert in climate anxiety in children and educational psychologist. Follow on Twitter/X @edpsydan.

Dr Camilla Morelli – expert in how children and young people imagine the future, asking what are the key challenges they face towards the adulthoods they desire and implementing impact strategies to make these desires attainable. Follow on Twitter/X @DrCamiMorelli.

Dr Helen Thomas-Hughes – expert in engaging, empowering, and inspiring diverse student bodies as collaborative environmental change makers. Also Lead of the Cabot Institute’s MScR in Global Environmental Challenges. Follow on Twitter/X @Researchhelen.

Professor Daniela Schmidt – expert in the causes and effects of climate change on marine systems. Dani is also a Lead Author on the IPCC reports. Also part of the Waves of Change project with Dr Camilla Morelli, looking at the intersection of social, economic and climatic impacts on young people’s lives and futures around the world.

Climate activism / Extinction Rebellion

Dr Oscar Berglund – expert on climate change activism and particularly Extinction Rebellion (XR) and the use of civil disobedience. Follow on Twitter @berglund_oscar.

Land / Nature / Food

Dr Jo House – expert on land and climate interactions, including emissions of carbon dioxide from land use change (e.g. deforestation), climate mitigation potential from the land (e.g. afforestationbioenergy), and implications of science for policy. Previously Government Office for Science’s Head of Climate Advice. Follow on Twitter @Drjohouse.

Professor Steve Simpson – expert marine biology and fish ecology, with particular interests in the behaviour of coral reef fishes, bioacoustics, effects of climate change on marine ecosystems, conservation and management. Follow on Twitter/X @DrSteveSimpson.

Dr Taro Takahashi – expert on farminglivestock production systems as well as programme evaluation and general equilibrium modelling of pasture and livestock-based economies.

Dr Maria Paula Escobar-Tello – expert on tensions and intersections between livestock farming and the environment.

Air pollution / Greenhouse gases

Dr Aoife Grant – expert in greenhouse gases and methane. Set up a monitoring station at Glasgow for COP26 to record emissions.

Professor Matt Rigby – expert on sources and sinks of greenhouse gases and ozone depleting substances. Follow on Twitter @TheOtherMRigby.

Professor Guy Howard – expert in contribution of waste and wastewater systems to methane emissions in low- and middle-income countries

Plastic and the environment

Dr Charlotte Lloyd – expert on the fate of chemicals in the terrestrial environment, including plasticsbioplastics and agricultural wastes. Follow on Twitter @DrCharlLloyd.

Cabot Institute for the Environment at COP28

We will have three media trained academics in attendance at the Blue Zone at COP28. These are: Dr Alix Dietzel (week 1), Dr Colin Nolden (week 2) and Dr Karen Tucker (week 2). We will also have two academics attending virtually: Dr Caitlin Robinson and Dr Katharina Richter.

Read more about COP on our website at
This blog was written by Amanda Woodman-Hardy, Communications and Engagement Officer at the Cabot Institute for the Environment. Follow on Twitter @Enviro_Mand and @cabotinstitute.

Watch our Cabot Conversations – 10 conversations between 2 experts on a climate change issue, all whilst an artist listens in the background and interprets the conversation into a beautiful piece of art in real time. Find out more at

Just Stop Oil: do radical protests turn the public away from a cause? Here’s the evidence


Just Stop Oil handout / EPA, CC BY-NC

Members of the protest group Just Stop Oil recently threw soup at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers in the National Gallery in London. The action once again triggered debate about what kinds of protest are most effective.

After a quick clean of the glass, the painting was back on display. But critics argued that the real damage had been done, by alienating the public from the cause itself (the demand that the UK government reverse its support for opening new oil and gas fields in the North Sea).

Supporters of more militant forms of protest often point to historical examples such as the suffragettes. In contrast with Just Stop Oil’s action, when the suffragette Mary Richardson went to the National Gallery to attack a painting called The Rokeby Venus, she slashed the canvas, causing major damage.

painting of woman's rear, with slash marks
The Rokeby Venus: the 17th century painting by Diego Velázquez was slashed by a suffragette, though later repaired.
National Gallery / wiki

However, many historians argue that the contribution of the suffragettes to women getting the vote was negligible or even counterproductive. Such discussions often seem to rely on people’s gut feelings about the impact of protest. But as a professor of cognitive psychology, I know that we don’t have to rely on intuition – these are hypotheses that can be tested.

The activist’s dilemma

In one set of experiments researchers showed people descriptions of protests and then measured their support for the protesters and the cause. Some participants read articles describing moderate protests such as peaceful marches. Others read articles describing more extreme and sometimes violent protests, for example a fictitious action in which animal rights activists drugged a security guard in order to break into a lab and remove animals.

Protesters who undertook extreme actions were perceived to be more immoral, and participants reported lower levels of emotional connection and social identification with these “extreme” protesters. The effects of this kind of action on support for the cause were somewhat mixed (and negative effects may be specific to actions that incorporate the threat of violence).

Overall, these results paint a picture of the so-called activist’s dilemma: activists must choose between moderate actions that are largely ignored and more extreme actions that succeed in gaining attention, but may be counterproductive to their aims as they tend to make people think less of the protesters.

Activists themselves tend to offer a different perspective: they say that accepting personal unpopularity is simply the price to be paid for the media attention they rely on to “get the conversation going” and win public support for the issue. But is this the right approach? Could activists be hurting their own cause?

Hating protesters doesn’t affect support

I’ve conducted several experiments to answer such questions, often in collaboration with students at the University of Bristol. To influence participants’ views of protesters we made use of a well-known framing effect whereby (even subtle) differences in how protests are reported have a pronounced impact, often serving to delegitimise the protest.

For example, the Daily Mail article reporting the Van Gogh protest referred to it as a “stunt” which is part of a “campaign of chaos” by “rebellious eco-zealots”. The article does not mention the protesters’ demand.

Our experiments took advantage of this framing effect to test the relationship between attitudes to the protesters themselves and to their cause. If the public’s support for a cause depends on how they feel about the protesters, then a negative framing – which leads to less positive attitudes toward protesters – should result in lower levels of support for the demands.

But that’s not what we found. In fact, experimental manipulations that reduced support for the protesters had no impact on support for the demands of those protesters.

We’ve replicated this finding across a range of different types of nonviolent protest, including protests about racial justice, abortion rights and climate change, and across British, American and Polish participants (this work is being prepared for publication). When members of the public say, “I agree with your cause, I just don’t like your methods,” we should take them at their word.

Decreasing the extent to which the public identifies with you may not be helpful for building a mass movement. But high publicity actions may actually be a very effective way to increase recruitment, given relatively few people ever become activists. The existence of a radical flank also seems to increase support for more moderate factions of a social movement, by making these factions appear less radical.

Protest can set the agenda

Another concern may be that most of the attention obtained by radical actions is not about the issue, focusing instead on what the protesters did. However, even where this is true, the public conversation opens up the space for some discussion of the issue itself.

Protest plays a role in agenda seeding. It doesn’t necessarily tell people what to think, but influences what they think about. Last year’s Insulate Britain protests are a good example. In the months after the protests began on September 13 2021, the number of mentions of the word “insulation” (not “Insulate”) in UK print media doubled.

Graph showing mentions of 'insulation' in UK news media over time with a sharp rise between August and September 2021
Spot when the Insulate Britain protests began. (Author’s own research, using Factiva database to search UK broadsheet and tabloid newspapers)
Colin Davis, Author provided

Some people don’t investigate the details of an issue, yet media attention may nevertheless promote the issue in their mind. A YouGov poll released in early June 2019 showed “the environment” ranked in the public’s top three most important issues for the first time.

Pollsters concluded that the “sudden surge in concern is undoubtedly boosted by the publicity raised for the environmental cause by Extinction Rebellion” (which had recently occupied prominent sites in central London for two weeks). There’s also evidence that home insulation has risen up the policy agenda since Insulate Britain’s protests.

Dramatic protest isn’t going away. Protagonists will continue to be the subject of (mostly) negative media attention, which will lead to widespread public disapproval. But when we look at public support for the protesters’ demands, there isn’t any compelling evidence for nonviolent protest being counterproductive. People may “shoot the messenger”, but they do – at least, sometimes – hear the message.The Conversation


This blog is written by Cabot Institute for the Environment member Professor Colin Davis, Chair in Cognitive Psychology, University of BristolThis article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Colin Davis



Tyre Extinguishers: activists are deflating SUV tyres in the latest pop-up climate movement


A new direct action group calling itself the Tyre Extinguishers recently sabotaged hundreds of sports utility vehicles (SUVs) in various wealthy parts of London and other British cities. Under cover of darkness, activists unscrewed the valve caps on tyres, placed a bean or other pulse on the valve and then returned the cap. The tyres gently deflated.

Why activists are targeting SUVs now can tell us as much about the failures of climate policy in the UK and elsewhere as it can about the shape of environmental protest in the wake of Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain.

The “mung bean trick” for deflating tyres is tried and tested. In July 2008, the Oxford Mail reported that up to 32 SUVs were sabotaged in a similar way during nocturnal actions in three areas of the city, with anonymous notes left on the cars’ windscreens.

In Paris in 2005, activists used bicycle pumps to deflate tyres, again at night, again in affluent neighbourhoods, again leaving anonymous notes. In both cases, activists were careful to avoid causing physical damage. Now it’s the Tyre Extinguishers who are deflating SUV tyres.

In the early 2000s, SUVs were still a relative rarity. But by the end of 2010s, almost half of all cars sold each year in the US and one-third of the cars sold in Europe were SUVs.

In 2019, the International Energy Agency reported that rising SUV sales were the second-largest contributor to the increase in global CO₂ emissions between 2010 and 2018 after the power sector. If SUV drivers were a nation, they would rank seventh in the world for carbon emissions.

At the same time, the Tyre Extinguishers’ DIY model of activism has never been easier to propagate. “Want to get involved? It’s simple – grab some leaflets, grab some lentils and off you go! Instructions on our website,” chirps the group’s Twitter feed.

Changing activist strategy

Though the actions led by the Tyre Extinguishers have numerous precedents, the group’s recent appearance in the UK’s climate movement does mark a change of strategy.

Extinction Rebellion (XR), beginning in 2018, hoped to create an expanding wave of mobilisations to force governments to introduce new processes for democratically deciding the course of climate action. XR attempted to circumvent existing protest networks, with its message (at least initially) aimed at those who did not consider themselves activists.

In contrast, activists in the Tyre Extinguishers have more in common with groups that have appeared after XR, such as Insulate Britain, whose members blockaded motorways in autumn 2021 to demand government action on the country’s energy inefficient housing. These are what we might call pop-up groups, designed to draw short-term media attention to specific issues, rather than develop broad-based, long-lasting campaigns.

After a winter of planning, climate activists are likely to continue grabbing headlines throughout spring 2022. XR, along with its sister group, Just Stop Oil, threaten disruption to UK oil refineries, fuel depots and petrol stations. Their demands are for the government to stop all new investments in fossil fuel extraction.

An industrial scene with three cooling towers and various chimneys lit up with yellow lights.
UK-based activists have threatened to block oil refineries in April 2022.

The Tyre Extinguishers explicitly targeted a specific class of what they consider anti-social individuals. Nevertheless, that the group’s action is covert and (so far at least) sporadic is itself telling.

In his book How to Blow up a Pipeline, Lund University professor of human ecology Andreas Malm asked at what point climate activists will stop fetishising absolute non-violence and start campaigns of sabotage. Perhaps more important is the question that Malm doesn’t ask: at what point will the climate movement be strong enough to be able to carry out such a campaign, should it choose to do so?

Given the mode of action of the Tyre Extinguishers, the answer on both counts is: almost certainly not yet.

The moral economy of SUVs

For now, the Tyre Extinguishers will doubtless be sustained by red meat headlines in the right-wing press. It’s still probable, however, that the group will deflate almost as quickly as it popped up: this is, after all, what has happened with similar groups in the past.

The fact that activists are once again employing these methods speaks to the failure of climate policy. Relatively simple, technical measures taken in the early 2000s would have solved the problem of polluting SUVs before it became an issue. The introduction of more stringent vehicle emissions regulations, congestion charging, or size and weight limits, would have stopped the SUV market in its tracks.

SUVs are important because they are so much more than metal boxes. Matthew Paterson, professor of international politics at the University of Manchester, argues that the connection between freedom and driving a car has long been an ideological component of capitalism.

And Matthew Huber, professor of geography at Syracuse University in the US, reminds readers in his book Lifeblood that oil is not just an energy source. It generates ways of being which become culturally and politically embedded, encouraging individualism and materialism.

Making SUVs a focal point of climate activism advances the argument that material inequality and unfettered individual freedoms are incompatible with any serious attempt to address climate change.

And here lies the crux of the conflict. The freedom of those who can afford to drive what, where and when they want infringes on the freedoms of the majority to safely use public space, enjoy clean air, and live on a sustainable planet.


This blog is by Graeme Hayes, Reader in Political Sociology, Aston University and Cabot Institute for the Environment member Dr Oscar Berglund, Lecturer in International Public and Social Policy, University of Bristol

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Disabled people and climate change

A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by a journalist working for BBC Ouch, the disability branch of BBC News.  They had my name on file because of a piece I proposed to write for them last year, concerning how it is possible to be a climate scientist/activist and, at the same time, to be severely physically disabled – not something most people put together.  Given that, possibly uniquely, I am very much both of these things, I thought this would be a fairly novel and (I hoped) positive and uplifting piece. Unfortunately, they disagreed, and it never got published.  However, they clearly kept my name on file, and approached me several weeks ago asking me to answer some questions, all revolving around the impact of anthropogenic climate change on disabled people.  With some hesitancy, which I will explain below, I answered these questions, and the story came out last week; it was entitled “Climate change: Why are disabled people so affected by the climate crisis?”.

Before there is any misunderstanding, I have absolutely no problem with this piece; they did not misquote me, or misinterpret what I wrote. However, unfortunately they completely missed (or possibly deliberately ignored) the main thrust of what I wrote and, as I suspected, my main argument clearly didn’t go down well.  This is because of the main agenda of the piece which, as is clear from even the title, is very much along the lines of “Whatever is going on in the world, it is worse for disabled people”.  This is probably the antithesis of my own personal agenda, and therefore what I wrote simply did not fit.  However, in response, it was suggested I write a blog post here, not to criticise the BBC article but simply to make my own argument, in my own words.

As I said, I approached the questions with more than a little hesitancy, because I am very much not a disabled activist and have never really let my physical issues be a big deal.  Let there be no misunderstanding – I care very much about the issues of disabled people, but the subject does not dominate my existence and I strongly object to the (surprisingly common) attitude that it somehow should.  How racist would it be to show raised eyebrows when learning that a person of colour was not attending a Black Lives Matter protest, implying somehow that they should?  But I have received the equivalent reaction many times.  With that in mind, I was hesitant to answer the journalist’s questions, all the more so because it became immediately obvious that the agenda was the one described above i.e. it was focusing purely on how badly off all disabled people are, and that anthropogenic climate change is just another example of this. Of course, it is very true that many disabled people are indeed suffering greatly, for a number of reasons; but that is not true for everybody, and in my opinion is not a generalisation that should be made.

Moreover, as I explained to the journalist, what I wrote for them was not based on any in-depth scientific evidence or research.  What I wrote, and indeed what I now write below, was and is therefore only be treated as personal opinion and some conjecture on my behalf. Likewise, I cannot possibly speak for all disabled people, because the needs and challenges of someone who is visually impaired are completely different to those of someone who is hearing impaired, or in a wheelchair.  Moreover, as a caveat, most of my comments below relate to those people with a physical disability, as I have little experience with people with a learning or emotional disability.  Clearly, if somebody does not have the capacity to do everyday tasks, no-one would say they should be doing more to tackle anthropogenic climate change. This is why, in general, I do not like the word ‘disability’, because it is incredibly broad and covers an enormous range of issues.  Unfortunately, being disabled does not give me a magic clairvoyance to understand other disabled people!  I can, of course, sympathise and empathise, and I can hypothesise over the possible challenges, but with only as much authority as any other member of the public. Sadly, I don’t have any special insight.

Therefore, although I answered the questions to the best of my ability, the main thrust of my argument was different to what they clearly wanted. In short, I argued that firstly everybody (not just disabled people) is going to be impacted by anthropogenic climate change, and secondly that the  economically vulnerable will be disproportionately hardest hit.  Given that, for a variety of reasons, disabled people are often amongst the most economically vulnerable, this is why they will be amongst the hardest-hit.  So my argument is that disabled people will not necessarily be hardest-hit because of their disability (although there are some examples, discussed below), but rather because of their economic status; which is exactly the same for many other people, disabled or not, in the same economically vulnerable group. 

To elaborate, my argument is that everybody is going to be hard hit by anthropogenic climate change, in many different ways, but that probably the most important thing concerning how hard an individual feels the impacts of climate change is their financial situation.  This is the case at both the international level (e.g. developing countries will be harder hit than developed ones, simply because the latter can afford to adapt to the impacts), and the individual level.  In other words, those individuals that are financially stable and secure will be much better placed to adapt to the impacts of anthropogenic climate change, and will therefore be relatively less hard-hit. Unfortunately, it is often the case that disabled people are not in this financially secure position.  This may be because of a number of reasons, such as either being unable to work because of their disability or being unable to find a job because of rampant (but well-disguised) discrimination. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), during the year October-December 2020, 53.6% of the 8.4 million disabled people of working age in the UK were in employment, compared to 81.7% of those who are not disabled1.  Likewise, the unemployment rate for disabled people was 8.4% during that period, compared to 4.6% for non-disabled people1.  So more or less twice as high.  As a result, during the same period 42.9% of disabled people were considered to be economically inactive, compared to only 14.9% of non-disabled people1This may be because of a lack of education; again according to the ONS, the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people with no qualifications is 41%, but this decreases as the level of education increases (it is only 15% for those with a degree or equivalent)1.  So I would argue that it is a multifactorial process; with possibly a lack of education, resulting in a lack of employment, resulting in a lack of financial security, being the main reason why disabled people will be amongst the hardest-hit. 

After the question “Why are disabled people hardest-hit?”, I was then asked how and in what ways, and what might happen in the future.  To quote some recent research, disabled people will be hit in the same way as anybody else, but simply harder2This I don’t dispute.  The example given in that particular piece of research is that of a hurricane, where a disabled person might need more social and medical support that someone without disabilities2We know that anthropogenic climate change has already increased the intensity of observed precipitation, winds and sea level changes associated with tropical cyclones3, and this is only likely to continue into the future.  Another example, perhaps more relevant to the UK, is severe flooding.  We have recently seen on the news, across Europe and in the UK, many images of houses and even entire streets being inundated due to extreme rainfall events causing flash flooding, and this is going to impact disabled people more than others in very physical ways; as a wheelchair user, I for example would not be able to get into a rubber dinghy to be evacuated.  There are many other examples of where there may be other, very severe complications for disabled people.  For example, disabled people may well have lots of equipment in their homes which, if the home was to be flooded, might be badly damaged; this is not just everyday equipment such as TVs, but rather some of this equipment might be critically needed for survival, such as ventilators or oxygen concentrators. Another  example, which is discussed in detail in the BBC article and was also highlighted by the other expert they interviewed, is extreme weather
events, either heatwaves or cold snaps. 
Again, this is a generalisation, but many disabled people are more sensitive to extremely hot weather, which can often exacerbate existing conditions4.  The only way to avoid problems with our rising temperatures would be to install air conditioning units, which are expensive and again brings us back to the financial security argument.  The same is true for cold weather, with many disabled people suffering greatly during very severe cold spells, again due to existing conditions (e.g. joint pain) being exacerbated.  Again, the only way to avoid problems here is to increase the level of heating, which again has financial implications.  We know that, as well as a general rise in temperatures, in the UK we are going to see an increase in extreme weather events, both hot and cold, and therefore the above problems are only likely to get worse5.

Finally, after the what, why and how, I was asked what needs to happen and whether I believe disabled people should be more involved in the fight against anthropogenic climate change.  As I explained to the journalist, I need to be a bit careful in answering these questions, because I see my role as a Climate Scientist as not to be preachy and tell people what they SHOULD be doing, but rather to be scientific and tell people what they COULD be doing.  It is then up to the individual to decide whether or not to take any action. Some Climate Scientists do not agree with this attitude, arguing that we should be preaching the good message, and I respect this way of thinking.  But I do not share it.

With that in mind, although I believe everybody can take some personal responsibility for tackling anthropogenic climate change, ultimately the problem is only going to be solved at the international level.  This of course means governmental action, working together globally across multiple countries and continents.  Governmental action is starting to happen, with the first concrete pledges coming from the Paris Agreement in 2015 and, at the time of writing, COP26 being in full-swing in Glasgow; so far signs are positive with, for example, a pledge to end all deforestation by 2030.  But it needs to go further.  More extensive governmental action is only going to happen if there is enough public pressure from the people that elect those governments.  As individuals, I believe that the best thing we can do to help this is simply to
talk about it; to understand it, to bring it into our everyday lives and conversations, and to get involved in lobbying both local businesses and (possibly more remote) government institutions. To use the dietary argument (discussed below), supermarkets are only going to keep stocking meat and fish as long as there is a public demand for it.  Banks and businesses are only going to invest in fossil fuel companies whilst they have customers; if their customers go elsewhere, to more environmentally-friendly competitors, things will change.

To answer the question over whether I believe disabled people should be more involved in the fight against anthropogenic climate change: I don’t just believe disabled people need to be more involved, I believe EVERYBODY needs to be more involved!  I believe that everybody can do something, if the motivation is there.  I completely appreciate that disabled people often have lots of much more pressing matters, and these should absolutely not be trivialised. Many disabled people might well argue that they cannot possibly worry about anthropogenic climate change given their own challenges and issues, and for them that might be true.  But it is not a universal law.  That being said, I do accept that when it comes to policy and structural reform, there is a danger that minority groups such as the disabled are ignored or (more likely) simply forgotten about; the case of plastic straws, mentioned in the BBC article, is a classic example of where this happened. The only way to avoid this is for disabled people to be more involved in the decision-making process from the beginning, not included as an afterthought.

So what can individuals, including disabled people, do on a personal level to tackle anthropogenic climate change?  The standard list of things to do is fairly well publicised these days, but given that this piece is about disabled people I will frame some of the answers within that context.  I will also give some examples of what I do on a personal basis but, to stress what I said above, I am not arguing that anybody SHOULD do these things. 

Firstly, people can cut down on transport, and in particular flying and the use of cars.  Concerning disabled people, and in particular wheelchair users, air travel is and has always been extremely challenging anyway, so may not be much of an issue. But it is certainly something to think about.  For myself, I am lucky enough that I am able to use air travel (although it is far from easy), and historically have flown all over the world for both work and pleasure. These days I am acutely aware of the hypocrisy of this, and have therefore cut down massively; I will never again take any domestic flight, and will allow myself international air travel very infrequently and only when absolutely necessary.  On these occasions, I will attempt to offset my carbon emissions by donating to one of the many green projects and programmes that are now available; this, of course, requires some level of financial security, which I am blessed enough to have.   In terms of cutting down the use of cars, this is probably going to be one of the biggest problems for many disabled people (certainly myself) because public transport is generally very inaccessible.  Things have improved over the years but nowhere near enough, especially for example in the London Underground.  Therefore my car is the only option.  Many disabled people with cars, including myself, use the Motability scheme6, and whilst this is generally brilliant, there are currently no electric or hybrid wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) available using the scheme.  Even if an electric or hybrid WAV was available, it would undoubtedly be very expensive, which brings us back to the financial security argument again. Likewise, the advice of leaving your car at home and cycling to work is probably not very useful to many disabled people!

Secondly, people can make changes around their home, such as improving insulation, installing solar panels, or switching to an environmentally-friendly carbon-neutral energy company.  Again, it is often not so much the disability that is stopping people from doing any of these, but rather the cost.  All of these things are expensive, some (such as installing solar panels) more than others. Given that, as discussed above, disabled people are often in the economically vulnerable category, these may not be viable, but if they can be afforded then they could be considered. For myself, I live in a ground-floor apartment by the river (therefore potentially vulnerable to flooding!), with my block externally managed by an agent, and therefore have no control over things like insulation or installing solar panels.  I am, however, lucky enough to be financially comfortable, and therefore I use a more expensive but 100% carbon-neutral energy company.

Thirdly, people can make changes concerning their shopping, recycling and dietary habits.  Again, there is a financial element here, because for example buying organic food is undoubtedly more expensive, and therefore this may not be viable for those who are economically vulnerable.  Online food shopping has becoming increasingly popular, with most supermarket chains now offering deliveries, and (again conjecture) this is something many disabled people undoubtedly benefit from; the downside of this is that there is always a lot of plastic involved in whatever is delivered, whereas someone able to go to the supermarket would be able to choose loose fruit and so on.  But there are ways around this, the main supermarkets are slowly improving, and there are more independent companies now that deliver environmentally-friendly groceries and food.  So, as before, if it can be afforded, things like buying organic and cutting out plastic could be considered.  For myself, I use an independent company that delivers local, organic, sustainable and environmentally-friendly groceries, delivered either in compostable bags or brown paper bags; undoubtedly, this is more expensive, but I am fortunate enough to be able to meet this cost.  Likewise, when it comes to recycling, this is something that everybody can do, regardless of being disabled or not.  If a person is able to throw something in the bin, they are able to put it in the recycling bin (where appropriate).  If they are not able to throw something away themselves, because of a disability, then it is hopeful that they have someone to do it for them, be that a friend, family member or official carer.  That person can therefore use the recycling bin.  Personally, I recycle absolutely everything, and have a composter in my small garden for anything that can go in it. 

Finally, and probably the most controversial one in this category: changing dietary habits.  I am not going to argue that everybody should be vegetarian or vegan; especially for many disabled people, who have very specific diets and would not be able to cut out the protein and vitamins included in meat, fish and dairy, this would not be possible.  Physical health and how it relates to diet should be one of the more important priorities for any individual, disabled or not, therefore there should be no blanket advice.  However, if an individual (disabled or not) is able to reduce their meat consumption, especially red meat such as beef and lamb, even if only two or three days a week, then that is something that could be considered.  In the UK, only a 20% reduction of meat consumption, as well as a 20% reduction in agricultural land being taken out of meat production, is needed to reach our CO2 net zero target by 20507; based on a working week, this is only one meat-free day per week.  For me, I used to be an ardent meat eater, not because of disability issues but because I enjoyed it; however, over the last 10 years or so, I have been cutting down dramatically and, as of last year, I am now almost completely vegetarian and, many days of the week, vegan. 

Lastly, as discussed above, probably the most important thing that everybody can do, disabled or otherwise, is to simply talk about anthropogenic climate change and get involved in tackling it in some, even little, way.  I am not arguing that everybody needs to be an expert or even have a deep understanding of the subject, but even a mild interest is a step in the right direction.  For everybody able to, getting involved, even in a small way, is something that can be done by all, including disabled people.  It does not have to involve going on marches, blocking motorways or gluing oneself to railings, which many disabled people (including myself) would not be able to do physically.  But it can involve talking to people (such as friends and family members), talking about it on social media, and joining climate-related groups; the latter, in particular, has become easier since the COVID pandemic, with virtual meetings now commonplace, something which is much easier for many disabled people if they struggle to leave their home.

To end this post with some positivity, and indeed the way I ended what I wrote for the journalist, I believe there are many good reasons to be hopeful when it comes to tackling anthropogenic climate change, whoever the individual is and whether or not they have a disability.  The ways of doing what needs to be done are well understood, and the science is clear on how to do things like Carbon Capture and Storage or how to reduce our carbon footprint on an individual level.  The problem, and the concern, is the apparent lack of motivation and willpower to do these things, both at the individual and political level.  Unfortunately many of the above things that individuals can do will involve a loss of some sort (be it financial, social or personal lifestyle changes) and many people, such as those with disabilities, may not be able to manage that loss. Only time will tell if these attitudes will change; there has certainly been a dramatic shift in the last ten years, but this needs to continue.  At the political level, meetings such as COP26 will be vitally important, but again only time will tell if these result in actual action or just more discussion. 


1Powell, A. (2021).  ‘Disabled people in employment’.  House of Commons Library,
UK Parliament.  Accessed 16/10/21.

2Liebmann, D. (2021).  ‘The Intersection of Disability and Climate Change’.  Harvard Graduate School of Education.  Accessed 16/10/21.

3Collins M., M. Sutherland, L. Bouwer, S.-M. Cheong, T. Frölicher, H. Jacot Des Combes, M. Koll Roxy, I. Losada, K. McInnes, B. Ratter, E. Rivera-Arriaga, R.D. Susanto, D. Swingedouw, and L. Tibig (2019). ‘Extremes, Abrupt Changes and Managing Risk’. In: IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, V. Masson-Delmotte, P. Zhai, M. Tignor, E. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, A. Alegría, M. Nicolai, A. Okem, J. Petzold, B. Rama, N.M. Weyer (eds.)].  Accessed 16/10/21.

4Harrington, S.  (2019).  ‘How Extreme Weather Threatens People with Disabilities’.  Scientific American.  Accessed 16/10/21.

5UK Met Office (2021).  ‘Effects of climate change’.
Accessed 16/10/21.

6  Accessed 16/10/21.

7The Lancet Planetary Health (2019).  ‘More than a diet’.


This blog is written by Cabot Institute for the Environment member Dr Charlie JR Williams BA DPhil FRGS, Climate Scientist and Research Fellow in the School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol as part of our COP26 blog series. You can follow Charlie on Twitter at @charliejrwill.

Dr Charlie Williams



Indian farmers’ strike continues in the shadow of COVID-19

In what is believed to be the biggest protest in history, in late November 2020 farmers from across India drove 200,000 trolleys and tractors towards Delhi’s borders in a mass protest against agricultural reforms. This was followed a few days later by a general strike involving 250 million people in both urban and rural areas of India as workers joined together to support the farmers.

The strike continues, despite the global public health crisis, which is hitting India harder than any other country in the world. Fear of COVID-19 has not deterred farmers, who have emphatically stated that regardless of whether they contract the virus, the “black laws” will kill them anyway.

The movement first began in the state of Punjab in June 2020, as farmers blocked freight railway lines in protest against these “black laws”, which increase corporate control over all aspects of the food chain from seed to sale. Farmers unions argue that the laws undermine state-controlled prices of key crops, by allowing sales outside of state mandis (markets).

The laws also enable corporations to control what contract farmers grow and how, thus reducing the bargaining power of small farmers. Corporations will be allowed to stockpile key produce and hence speculate with food, which was previously illegal. Finally, the laws provide legal immunity to corporations operating in “good faith”, thereby voiding the ability of citizens to hold agribusiness to account.

Braving tear gas and water cannons, thousands of farmers and their families descended on Delhi and transformed its busy roads into bustling camp cities, with communal “langhar” kitchens.

Undeterred by police violence, farmers fed these aggressors who beat them by day with free food by night. This act of community service not only underscored the peaceful intentions of the protests but also encapsulated one of the key ideas of the movement: “no farmers, no food”.

In the same spirit of solidarity, farmers at Delhi’s borders are responding to the rapidly escalating spread of COVID-19 in the city. They are distributing food packages and essential goods to hospitals, as well as in bus and railway stations for those leaving the capital.

Striking farmers have been supplying food to hospitals and other people in need during the COVID-19 emergency in India. Credit: EPA-EFE/STR. Source.

Farmers from numerous states, of all castes and religions, are coexisting and growing the protest movement from the soil upwards – literally, turning trenches into vegetable gardens. Many farmers refer to this movement as “andolan” – a revolution – where alliances are being forged between landless farm labourers and smallholder farmers. In a country deeply divided by caste and – increasingly – religion, this coming together around land, soil and food has powerful potential.

Women have also taken leading roles, as they push for recognition as farmers in their own right. They are exploring the intersections of caste oppression, gendered labour and sexual violence in person and in publications such as Karti Dharti – a women-led magazine sharing stories and voices from the movement.

Violent response

Despite the largely peaceful protests, farmers have been met with state repression and violence. At various points water supplies have been cut to the protest sites and internet services blocked. Undeterred, farmers have prepared the camp sites for the scorching summer heat that now envelops them.

Amnesty international has called on the Indian government to “stop escalating crackdown on protesters, farm leaders and journalists”. Eight media workers have been charged with sedition, while 100 people protesters have disappeared. In response, parliaments around the world have issued statements and debates on the right to peaceful protest in India, as well as a free and open press.

Women have been key players in the Indian farmers’ strike. EPA-EFE/Harish Tyagi. Source.

The heavy-handed government response and intransigence to the key demands of the movement adds grave doubt for farmers who are now being asked to disband protest sites in the interest of public health. It highlights the hypocrisy of being told to go home, while the ruling BJP was holding mass rallies in West Bengal.

The fear is that COVID-19 could derail the momentum of this movement, as with the protests around the Citizen Amendment Act, which were cleared in March 2020 due to enforced lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19. Farmers repeat that they will leave as soon as the government repeals the laws and protects the minimum support price of key crops.

There has been a groundswell of support from around the globe, from peasant movements, the Indian diaspora community and celebrities – including Rihanna and climate activist Greta Thunberg. This movement is fighting for the principles of democracy on which the Indian state was founded and is part of a civil society movement filling in for the state, which has been found sorely wanting in its response to the calamitous consequences of COVID-19.

The “black laws” are but the latest in a long history of struggle faced by Indian farmers. India’s sprawling fields have been sites of “green revolution” experimentation since the 1960s. This has worsened water scarcity, reduced crop genetic diversity, damaged biodiversity, eroded and depleted soils, all of which has reduced soil fertility.

The financial burden of costly inputs and failing crops has fallen on farmers, leading to spiralling debts and farmer suicides. The impacts of climate change and ecologically destructive farming are primary reasons for this financial duress. However, the movement has yet to deeply address the challenges of transitioning towards socioeconomically just, climate-friendly agriculture.

Peasant movements around the world highlight the importance of collective spaces and knowledge-sharing between small farmers. The campsites in Delhi provide a unique opportunity to link socioeconomic farming struggles to their deep ecological roots. These are indeed difficult discussions, but the kisaan (farmer) movement has provided spaces to challenge caste, religious and gender-based oppression.

The movement’s strength is its broad alliances and solidarity, but it remains unclear whether it will link palpable socioeconomic injustices to environmental injustices and rights. The ecological origins of COVID-19 make these connections ever more pressing the world over.The Conversation


This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

This blog is written by Cabot Institute member Dr Jaskiran Kaur Chohan, at the University of Bristol Vet School. Jaskiran is a political ecologist with an interdisciplinary background in the Social Sciences.

Dr Jaskiran Kaur Chohan


Research and teaching in the midst of climate crisis

Bristol Climate Strike September 2019. Image credit Amanda Woodman-Hardy.

I became a co-convenor of the PSA Environmental Politics sub-group in 2019, against the backdrop of the rise of Extinction Rebellion and the increasing impact of the environmental movement. The convening team decided to reflect this in our workshop on ‘Activism and Academia in an Age of Environmental Breakdown’ at Nottingham Trent which aimed to not only bring together activists and academics but to critically reflect on the intersection between the two and try to explore how to hold academic events in this time of climate crisis.

As anyone who’s organised an event knows, finding a convenient date is half the battle. Balancing the start of term dates for myself and the other co-convenors was difficult and the date of 20th September 2019 was one of the few that worked for us all. But surely holding an event on environmental activism on the date of the global climate strike was contradictory? After much discussion, we decided that the fit between the theme of the conference and the strike could provide a rich source of discussion and that we should try and explore this. So we arranged for the lunch break to include time for anyone who wanted to, to attend the demonstration being held in the nearby city centre with directions provided.

Some participants also mentioned that they would be attending the workshop as part of their strike action, with one participant wearing a strike arm-band. Registration was free and we were clear that people could attend for whatever time they could, to further support people coming along as part of their strike activities. Participating in a climate protest, whether by labelling attendance at the workshop as such or briefly joining the main demonstration, while at the same time critically analysing both the protest and the intersection of activism and academia blurred the objectivity of the workshop, to say the very least. But bringing our practice into the workshop and openly discussing how they intersected, in addition to ensuring that no activism was compulsory, grounded our discussions and prompted each participant to reflect on how they experienced the intersection of both their research and their action.

The current wave of climate action and the groups that are spearheading it, such as the school strike movement and Extinction Rebellion, are distinct in the way that they are driven by young activists. Initially, we recognised this through a panel on youth engagement, with excellent speakers such as Dr Sarah Pickard presenting their work on young people’s political activism. However, this felt disingenuous and was not representative of the movement nor the agency of the young activists driving it.

So we reached out to young climate activists around the globe and asked if they would like to record a video to be shown at the conference which explained why they got involved with the climate strike movement and how the networks they were part of were organised. (We took advice regarding data protection and gained the consent of their parents when necessary.) Hearing directly from these activists from across Europe and America brought balance to the panel, ensuring that we weren’t just discussing youth activism, but listening and responding to them and their work directly. This activist engagement was also reflected in the speakers we invited to the conference and the call for papers.

We wanted to ensure that activists and practitioners were included and highlighted this in both the name of the workshop and throughout. For example, the ‘Critical Reflections on Extinction Rebellion’ panel featured activists from the group as well as academics who study it, and representatives from a local wildlife NGO took part in another panel.

The NGOs represented were from Nottingham and the Midlands in part due to proximity to the conference venue but also because we wanted to reflect the context of the area we held the event in, to ‘think global, act local’. We endeavoured to match this with an engagement with the wider context of climate activism, with a discussion of activism and academic globally and in the Global South in particular. Deciding against a specific panel on this topic, we tried to reflect the global context throughout the day, such as including videos from young activists around the world and a specific reflection on this topic at the start of the roundtable led by a scholar of and from the Global South.

However keeping the balance between the local and the global was difficult, raising questions of whose voices are included and whose are heard.

Within the workshop, we wanted to reflect the growing trend of more inclusive academic conferences, a trend that is particularly prevalent within environmental scholarship. The roundtable at the end of the workshop was designed to facilitate this, with activities that paired up activists and academics for discussion and time for the group as a whole to talk together. This turned out to be one of the strongest aspects of the workshop – certainly, it was one of the most commented upon and more space for this discussion, even at the expense of time for the earlier papers, would I think have been welcomed.

Reflecting on the workshop now, while there are changes I would make, the attempt to not only bring together academics and activists but to embed that approach within the format of the day and its priorities was I felt worthwhile. To research and teach on environmental issues in the face of climate denialism and apathy as well as the increasing environmental collapse is a political act and we should recognise that in our forums.

This blog is written by Cabot Institute member Dr Ashley Dodsworth, a lecturer in politics in SPAIS at the University of Bristol and co-convenor of the PSA Environment sub-group. Her research explores the intersection of the history of political thought and environmental politics, and environmental rights. She is co-editor of Environmental Human Rights: A Political Theory Perspective (Routledge, 2018). This blog was reposted with kind permission from the Centre for Environmental Humanities at the University of Bristol. View the original blog.

Ashley Dodsworth