Petrol, Diesel and Hybrid Cars

In this article for The Conversation website, Ashley Fly, an academic at Loughborough University, proposes four actions for the Government to take to help meet the new target of eliminating petrol, diesel and hybrid cars by 2035. First, the large workforce currently producing petrol and diesel engines will need to be retrained with skills more suited to electric vehicle manufacture. Second, the author emphasises the importance of innovation and infrastructure in making the transition from prototype electric vehicles to mass production. The Government has already pledged nearly £300 million for battery research (a commitment known as the Faraday Challenge). The author welcomes this, but also calls on the Government to expand charging infrastructure. The third action calls for the research into batteries to focus on improving capacity and recyclability. This may involve building whole new facilities capable of separating the raw materials within the battery, so they can individually be reused. Finally, the author highlights the potential for hydrogen fuel cells to act alongside electric vehicles, particularly in lorries and buses. The quicker refuelling time makes hydrogen power more attractive for long journeys. However, the hydrogen refuelling infrastructure is currently extremely limited, and would need considerable expansion if this was adopted as another viable alternative to petrol and diesel.

The Psychological Effects of Quarantine

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) looks at the psychological consequences of quarantine. Although the situation in Wuhan following the outbreak of coronavirus is rapidly changing, quarantine has become a reality for millions of its residents. Fear and anxiety are understandable reactions to an outbreak of disease, and the authors argue that mass quarantine is highly likely to amplify these feelings, regardless of the severity of the outbreak. The authors discuss four key reasons for this. First, imposition of quarantine indicates to residents that authorities view the situation as severe and likely to worsen. Second, trust in the authorities amongst those under quarantine is often damaged, with some believing they are prioritising the needs of others. Third, a sense of claustrophobia and of being trapped can often take hold, particularly if families are separated. Finally, a lack of reliable information and clear messaging can create a ‘rumour mill’ among those in quarantine, often leading people to unreliable sources of information. The cumulative effect of these factors can be severe both for the individual and for public services as a whole. During previous outbreaks, hospitals within quarantined areas were often overwhelmed with patients presenting minor or non-existent symptoms, but with high levels of anxiety and panic. The authors conclude by highlighting “perhaps the most pernicious” effect of quarantine: how those on the outside view those in isolation, and the stigmatisation that can take hold. The authors claim the social effects of this can linger for years after the end of an outbreak.

The Case For a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty

Tzeporah Berman, Peter Newell and Matthew Stilwell call for a radical new approach to tackling climate change in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. They focus on the continued supply of oil, gas and coal reserves and infrastructure as a major stumbling block to further international agreement. Using a historical analogy, they compare the current global situation to the threat of imminent nuclear warfare during the peak of the cold war in the 1950s and ’60s. This threat was countered by countries coming together and seeking agreement, culminating in the Treaty on the Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, signed by both the United States and the Soviet Union in 1968. This, alongside other efforts, saw the world’s stockpile of nuclear weapons decline from a high of 64,449 nuclear missiles in 1986 to less than 10,000 today. The authors call for a similar approach to the climate crisis, endorsing a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty along the same lines as the nuclear weapons treaty, focusing on “non-proliferation, disarmament, and peaceful use”. The authors argue this would emphasise the need for concerted international cooperation to curb the supply of fossil fuels, and would provide ‘a tangible proposal’ for nations to rally around in the fight against climate change.