Author archive: Rebecca Willis

publications
How Members of Parliament understand and respond to climate change
19th September 2017
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This paper, published in the Sociological Review, looks at climate change from the politician’s point of view. It offers four stories of different politicians’ strategies.

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What does climate change look like through the eyes of a politician?
19th September 2017
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I’m in a café in the House of Commons, talking to a newly-elected MP about climate change. He’s under no illusions about likely impacts. He points out that where we’re sitting, beside the River Thames, could be under water in decades to come. He calls climate change ‘catastrophic’, and looks for every opportunity he can to raise the issue.  But his commitment has come at a price: speaking out on climate is, he tells me, a ‘career-limiting move’.

It’s easy to get frustrated with politicians. We know the consequences of not acting on climate change. We know what needs to » Continue Reading.

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What on earth is mitigation deterrence? If you care about climate, you need to know
20th July 2017
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As the need to cut carbon becomes more urgent, we are seeing more attention paid to technologies offering ways to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. At the risk of acronym overload, proposals include bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and direct air capture (DAC). Most climate modelling which predicts how the goals of the Paris Agreement can be reached now includes these technologies, as this Nature paper explains. The UK’s Research Councils have just funded a set of projects exploring the feasibility of greenhouse gas removal technologies.

Sounds great – after all, we need to do » Continue Reading.

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Taking Back Control (for real): Joining the New Economics Foundation
10th July 2017
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My first encounter with the New Economics Foundation was over twenty years ago. A nervous new graduate, I came for an interview to be NEF’s office manager. I’d never worked in an office, or managed anything, but I had long admired NEF, so I somehow blagged my way in. I had a great chat with them about the state of the world, but unsurprisingly, they chose someone who, er, knew how to manage an office. (Incidentally, on the subject of rejection, have a look at this brilliant blog by Nick Hopwood. It would do us all good to » Continue Reading.

publications
Taming The Climate? Corpus analysis of politicians’ speech on climate change
19th January 2017
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A paper in the journal Environmental Politics, analysing how politicians talk about climate change.

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Taming the Climate? How politicians talk about climate change
13th January 2017
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While climate deniers on both sides of the Atlantic attract media and public attention, the overwhelming majority of politicians in the UK support the scientific consensus on climate change. Just five out of 650 MPs voted against the Climate Change Act in 2008, and major parties in Westminster have all pledged their support for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, signed in December 2015.

That doesn’t mean that climate change is an easy subject for politicians. They have the tricky task of turning the scientific consensus about the need for action into a workable agenda that can win people’s support. » Continue Reading.

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“Yes, but…” Tales from the frontline of energy policy
7th December 2016
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I spent a splendidly geeky day yesterday at the final conference of the iGov project at the University of Exeter, a project I’ve advised over three years. If there’s anything you ever want to know about how our crazily complex energy regulation system works, and what needs to change, just ask them. Believe me, they’ve got the answers.

I’ve found iGov’s work really useful in my work advocating community energy, and other innovations that don’t quite fit the system. My frustrations, and the need for iGov’s work, can be summed up in two words: “yes, but”.

This little phrase » Continue Reading.

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A green ‘people’s home’? Reflections on climate politics in Sweden
29th September 2016
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When the going gets tough in UK politics, it’s tempting to look to Scandinavia for inspiration. Those ex-vikings seem to have mellowed into a peaceful, consensual bunch, quietly doing the right thing on social policy and environmental protection. Or so we believe. But what’s the truth behind the stereotype? I recently spent a month in Sweden, and while I’m still no expert, I had a lot of interesting conversations about Swedish politics – so here are my reflections.

First, the famed Swedish social contract is still very much in evidence, though it’s under some strain. Sweden has managed to » Continue Reading.

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My Swedish state of mind (or, why a study visit is a really great idea)
20th September 2016
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I’ve learned a lot during my month in Sweden. First, the important stuff. The Swedes take their coffee breaks very seriously, and the cardamom buns are legendary. They are even better than the Brits at queuing, but have a surprisingly anarchic approach to cycling: bikes jostle for position alongside pedestrians on the pavements.

Though I heard a lot during my visit about the unravelling of the famous social consensus, Sweden still feels like a well-ordered, egalitarian place, with investment in public services and infrastructure visible at every turn. I’ll write a separate blog about my impressions » Continue Reading.

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September in Sweden
29th August 2016
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I start today as a visiting fellow at Lund University, in southern Sweden. For the next few weeks I’ll be a guest of guest of Lund’s Centre for Environmental and Climate Research (CEC)  and the Department of Political Science.

It’s only my first day, but it’s great to meet staff and students at Lund and find out a bit more about their approach. Like my home base, Lancaster Environment Centre, CEC is interdisciplinary, combining natural and social sciences to understand and respond to global environmental issues including climate change, biodiversity loss and natural resource management. Handily for me, they are particularly interested in how » Continue Reading.