Scholars at the University of Bristol Law School have enjoyed a longstanding presence at the forefront of research in health law, and the undergraduate unit in Medical Law has become one of the most popular options on our degree programme. The School is home to leaders in fields that examine health law topics such as reproduction, mental health, public and global health, medical innovation, public procurement, and professional regulation. Our academics explore these issues from critical perspectives that include ethical, justice-based, historical, regulatory, economic, political and socio-legal approaches. As well as leading in research and education, we have close engagement with bodies responsible for advocacy, regulation, standard-setting, professional training, and providing ethical review and advice.
In reflection of this excellent concentration of expertise and experience, we have founded a new research Centre and are launching an exciting LLM Programme in Health, Law, and Society. Our aim with this innovative degree is to advance a course that looks at, but also reaches far beyond, questions concerning medicine and healthcare, to incorporate knowledge and understanding of how law and governance across all social and political sectors may impact health—for better or for worse. The breadth and depth of study on the course, reflecting directly our diverse range of teaching and research interests, is enhanced by the inclusion throughout the year of guest sessions led by scholars and specialists whose work and practice afford them unique insights and perspectives. (more…)
In what has been described as ‘nature’s own great climate experiment’, the 1992 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines provided scientists with data to refine their climate models. After the eruption, average global temperatures dropped temporarily as particles released into the stratosphere increased the Earth’s albedo. Solar Radiation Management (SRM) – or ‘reflecting sunlight to cool earth’ – developed notionally thereafter as a means of reducing global average temperatures resulting from increased greenhouse gases.
Pinatubo provided all kinds of data which helped increase the accuracy of climate models eventually predicting with relative certainty the temperature-cooling climatic impacts of SRM, whilst leaving relatively uncertain – or unknown – the extent of environmental impacts, such as those arising from changing patterns of rainfall. The current limitations of models in telling us about localised environmental uncertainties could be reduced if research into the effects of SRM took place outdoors, or in the field, so to speak. But that research would actually constitute deployment which itself would generate uncertain environmental effects. Given these significant constraints it is not possible to establish to what extent SRM technologies are effective or reliable and therefore it is imperative that a legitimate regulatory process is secured in which decisions about its research and deployment can be taken.
This new article* sets out how risky SRM field research might be regulated in the EU in such a way as to maximise legitimacy. It suggests that under particular conditions the EU could delegate to an independent agency powers to undertake what I call an incorporated risk assessment; an assessment in which science and politics, expertise and lay-knowledges are combined. Legitimacy would be maximised because the EU’s regulatory framework relating to the risks of SRM field research would be legal and also responsive, flexible, deliberative and inclusive. (more…)
By Alice Venn, PhD Candidate (University of Bristol Law School).*
The South Pacific is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to climate change impacts. The images conjured up of sinking small islands surrounded by miles of rising oceans however do little justice to the vibrant cultures, diverse landscapes and close-knit communities I recently encountered there. As part of my PhD project exploring the legal protection available to climate vulnerable states and communities I was fortunate enough, with the support of the South West Doctoral Training Centre, to be awarded a three month visiting researcher position at the University of the South Pacific in Port Vila, Vanuatu. I spent my time there gathering data, primarily through a series of interviews with key stakeholders from national government, local law firms and NGOs, as well as with a number of regional organisations during a short trip to Fiji. (more…)