Monitoring CO2 levels in offices may make them more Covid safeDan Dimmock

Tax the rich to feed the poor

Simon Szreter, Professor of History and Public Policy at Cambridge, has co-authored the book, ‘After the Virus - Lessons from the Past for a Better Future’, which explores how the government could better deal with the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Szreter uses a historical perspective to argue that the government’s cut to universal credit is a mistake and he calls on the government to learn from the past.

In particular, the book focuses on Queen Elizabeth I and the lessons we can learn from her ‘Poor Laws’. The Poor Laws obligated local parishes to care for the poor, which essentially resulted in the formation of the first welfare state.

Szreter argues that “the evidence of history is that societies and economies fare much better with a strong welfare state and when you cut welfare to make savings, you damage society and the economy.”

Szreter’s co-author Hilary Cooper, a former government economist and senior policy-maker, asserted that “Elizabeth would absolutely have taxed the rich to support the poor” in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Cooper warned of the “peril” of cutting welfare such as education and health, because “Covid-19 hit the poorest the hardest, with death rates highest in deprived areas and among people of colour. ”

Crayfish pushing ecosystems to their ‘tipping point’

Meanwhile, in the Cambridge zoology department, researchers have been looking at how a mere crayfish could destroy the ecosystem of a lake.

Dr Sam Reynolds, the first author of the report, stressed that human activity and climate change are introducing invasive species into ecosystems. These new species diminish the number of important organisms in lakes and lead to a reduction in water quality.

The report also explains that degraded, cloudy lakes are dominated by algae, which blocks light and prevents ecosystem recovery.

Reynolds commented that “algal blooms represent one of the most significant threats to the security of the Earth’s surface freshwaters. Simply undoing the circumstances that triggered a tipping point will not restore the ecosystem - the road to recovery is slow and steep.”

The reporters suggested that their findings may be applicable to other ecosystems that experience that are on the verge of their “tipping point”, such as forests and coral reefs.

CO2 monitors may make the workplace safer

To contribute to the ever-growing body of Covid-19 research, researchers from the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, and the University of Leeds have teamed together to develop a Covid-19 model that may make the workplace safer.

The model uses CO2 and occupancy data to predict how many workers will be infected by an infectious yet asymptomatic colleague.

Areas with high occupancy and low ventilation are associated with an increased infection rate. This study’s scientists ascertained that rooms with low ventilation and high occupancy have higher CO2 levels.

Therefore, monitoring CO2 levels in offices may be a useful indication as to whether interventions are needed to reduce the infection rate.

Co-author Professor Paul Linden from Cambridge’s Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics said: “Ventilation is complicated and airflow is invisible, so it’s hard for people to appreciate the effects in the home or workplace.

“Commercially available CO2 monitors are being installed in schools and I would recommend their installation in the workplace.”

Can wealthy role models help the climate crisis?

A paper the University’s Psychology department has suggested an innovative new way to tackle climate change: through the wealthy and well-connected.

The authors propose that changing the behaviour of those in high socioeconomic positions will help impact carbon emissions: the individuals that they refer to are both those of high income, and also those with better social networks.

Dr Kristian Nielsen, a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Psychology, argues that people of high socioeconomic status have important connections: “Their connections can enable them to influence behaviours and policies to help mitigate climate change – and we need to find ways to encourage them to do this.”

Nielsen continued: “People of higher socioeconomic status could also act as role models, making more climate-friendly choices that influence others – for example driving electric cars or eating a vegan diet.”