Imperial College London

Dr Miriam R. Aczel

Faculty of Natural SciencesCentre for Environmental Policy

Honorary Research Associate
 
 
 
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miriam.aczel14 CV

 
 
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16 Prince's GardensSouth Kensington Campus

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Summary

 

Publications

Publication Type
Year
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48 results found

Aczel MR, 2021, The cosmos: astronomy in the new millennium, 5th edition, CONTEMPORARY PHYSICS, ISSN: 0010-7514

Journal article

Aczel MR, 2021, Practical alchemy: a memoir, CONTEMPORARY PHYSICS, ISSN: 0010-7514

Journal article

Aczel MR, 2021, Justice without borders: opportunities from France’s ‘duty of care’ act applied to Uganda, Energy Research & Social Science, Vol: 75, Pages: 1-9, ISSN: 2214-6296

In 2017, France legislated a prohibition on domestic hydrocarbon exploration and production by 2040, in line with national carbon emissions reduction goals. As the law applies only to France or French territories, there is argued incentive for French-based companies to move their extractive activities abroad. France also passed in 2017 a remarkable ‘due diligence’ law—the Duty of Care Act—that holds large French companies responsible for impacts of their activities worldwide, including subsidiaries and the totality of their supply chains. The law’s potential reach is unclear as there is currently no case law to guide decision-making and application of its provisions. This Act merits close examination as it is the most comprehensive law globally aimed at enforcing corporate responsibility and requires companies of a defined size to create plans to anticipate and mitigate risk to human and environmental rights. Companies that violate the law by failing to address risk through a comprehensive plan may face stiff penalties and can be brought to court by ‘interested parties’ in French courts. The Act allows for those facing risk of harm or those acting on their behalf, including NGOs, to bring claims within France’s judicial system, which is arguably significant in countries with weak enforcement or legal capacity. The first lawsuit under the Act was brought against French-based Total by a consortium of French and Ugandan NGOs over the company’s alleged failure to adequately address risk to human and environmental rights in Uganda. However, while the case remains pending in the French court system, there are several opportunities to learn from analysis of this case and its significance in a global context. This perspective article discusses the current case and analyses the potential gaps and opportunities of application of the law. Further, this research considers the role of the French law as a model for other count

Journal article

Aczel MR, 2021, A comparison of tree growth in two sites near schefferville, Quebec, Electronic Green Journal, Vol: 1, Pages: 1-12

Trees provide vital global ecosystem services, including carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation, among others. Further, trees play an important role in regulating climate because of their role in complex water and carbon cycles, and other climate feedback mechanisms. Thus, understanding influences on their growth and productivity is important for gaining insight into current and future climatic conditions. Research has shown that tree height within forests is a significant indicator of the tree’s health as well as overall forest productivity. This study aims to add to understanding of how stress factors might influence tree growth and how trees might adapt to stressed conditions by comparing two sites in Canada’s sub-Arctic, near Schefferville, Quebec. The methodology involved collecting and analyzing tree core samples taken from trees in the two sites: one ‘stressed’ and a second ‘ideal’ or ‘non-stressed.’ Analysis of the tree cores found no statistically significant difference in trunk circumference (or diameter) growth between the stressed and ideal forests. This arguably indicates that trees in both plots had similar amounts of water to facilitate their annual growth. However, comparisons of annual average tree height and vertical growth found highly statistically significant differences. Trees in the stressed forest grew slower vertically (but not in thickness) than trees in the ideal forest, and they reached lower total height— by a factor of almost two. If it is assumed that the stressed forest under study constitutes a random sample of trees that comes from a population of “all stressed forests,” and similarly for the “ideal forest,” then we may conclude that stressed forests—ones exposed to heavy winds and facing unreliable water supply—tend to produce shorter and slower-growing trees than forests under “ideal” conditions. Equally, the non-signi

Journal article

Aczel MR, 2020, Public opposition to shale gas extraction in Algeria: Potential application of France's ‘Duty of Care Act’, The Extractive Industries and Society, Vol: 7, Pages: 1360-1368, ISSN: 2214-790X

Journal article

O'Beirne T, Battersby F, Mallett A, Aczel M, Makuch K, Workman M, Heap Ret al., 2020, The UK net-zero target: Insights into procedural justice for greenhouse gas removal, Environmental Science and Policy, Vol: 112, Pages: 264-274, ISSN: 1462-9011

Greenhouse gas removal (GGR) is increasingly seen as a key dimension of national and international climate policy.The need to deploy a portfolio of GGR technologies in order to decarbonise sectors with the ‘hardest-to-abate’emissions, particularly to achieve net-zero emissions targets, has become increasingly evident in recent years. In May2019, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) published a report outlining a pathway to net-zero emissions in theUK, which comprised significant contributions from engineered and land-based removals. The target of net-zeroemissions has since been enshrined in UK legislation, meaning that GGR will likely be part of the UK’s climatestrategy. Plans for GGR deployment will therefore need to be set in motion in the short-term, in order to align with thetimeframe proposed by the CCC. Despite a growing body of research examining the role governance could and shouldplay in GGR development and deployment, there is a gap in the literature relating to the social implications of removalactivities. In particular, the roles of procedural justice (PJ) and social legitimacy (SL) have not been closely examined.This study comprises an analysis of relevant legislation, combined with a series of interviews conducted in thecommunity of Selby (a proposed location for BECCS development) in order to investigate PJ and SL in the context ofGGR. It is found that the existing legal framework operates PJ as a ‘tick-the-box’ exercise, failing to engage a widerange of interested stakeholders or to promote meaningful engagements. Moreover, the PJ landscape for GGR isunplanned and adapted from existing legislation and cannot meet the unique needs of this novel activity, such as theneed to engage the wider national public given their interest in climate change mitigation. Research in Selbycorroborates these findings, revealing a range of issues with engagement procedures, including disinterest ordisillusionment with processes, a lack of

Journal article

Aczel MR, Makuch KE, 2020, Shale resources, parks conservation, and contested public lands in North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park: is fracking booming?, Case Studies in the Environment, Vol: 4, Pages: 1-13, ISSN: 2473-9510

This case study analyzes the potential impacts of weakening the National Park Service’s (NPS) “9B Regulations” enacted in 1978, which established a federal regulatory framework governing hydrocarbon rights and extraction to protect natural resources within the parks. We focus on potential risks to national parklands resulting from Executive Orders 13771—Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs [1]—and 13783—Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth [2]—and subsequent recent revisions and further deregulation. To establish context, we briefly overview the history of the United States NPS and other relevant federal agencies’ roles and responsibilities in protecting federal lands that have been set aside due to their value as areas of natural beauty or historical or cultural significance [3]. We present a case study of Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP) situated within the Bakken Shale Formation—a lucrative region of oil and gas deposits—to examine potential impacts if areas of TRNP, particularly areas designated as “wilderness,” are opened to resource extraction, or if the development in other areas of the Bakken near or adjacent to the park’s boundaries expands [4]. We have chosen TRNP because of its biodiversity and rich environmental resources and location in the hydrocarbon-rich Bakken Shale. We discuss where federal agencies’ responsibility for the protection of these lands for future generations and their responsibility for oversight of mineral and petroleum resources development by private contractors have the potential for conflict.

Journal article

Makuch K, Aczel M, Zaman S, 2020, Do children want environmental rights? Ask the Children!, Electronic Green Journal: professional journal on international environmental information, Vol: 1 (2020), ISSN: 1076-7975

In this paper, we argue for the importance of application and safeguarding of the ‘environmental rights of children,’ and further argue that an understanding of children’s perspectives towards nature and their rights to a viable and healthy environment can help both educational and policy development. To that end, we present a case study of preliminary qualitative research conducted in the United Kingdom that asks children themselvestheir views and degree of exposure to the natural environment. This research is underpinned by an environmental rights-based approach for environmental education, and a novel argument for incorporating children’s own understandings and perspectives in application of environmental rights. We conclude with recommendations for strengthening children’s environmental engagement, protection of rights, and education, and recognize that there is a need for further research to better understand children’s perspectives to their own environmental rights.

Journal article

Makuch K, Aczel M, 2020, Eco-citizen science for social good: promoting child well-being, environmental justice, and inclusion, Research on Social Work Practice, Vol: 30, ISSN: 1049-7315

This article examines the benefits and challenges of engaging children in environmental citizen science, defined as science conducted by nonspecialists under the direction of professional scientists, to promote social good. Citizen science addresses two central elements of the social good model—environmental justice and inclusion with particular attention to diversity in age, gender, race/ethnicity, and social class in addressing environmental injustice that is more prevalent in underrepresented communities. This article evaluates how participation in citizen science projects focused on the environment (eco-citizen science) benefits the child’s development, contributes to science, and leads to commitment to environmental stewardship and justice as adults. Our work offers a novel contribution to the discourse on social good and social justice through explicitly calling for children to be included in environmental citizen science projects. We examine the benefits and challenges of involving children in scientific projects and discuss implications for policy, practice, and future research

Journal article

Aczel MR, Aczel D, Ville M, 2019, Hero from the east: how zero came to the west, Frontiers for Young Minds, Vol: 7, Pages: 1-8

While the Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans were able to do remarkably sophisticated calculations, mathematical development was limited until introduction of a true zero. In this article, we will explain why zero was such an important development. We try to answer the question: where did zero come from and how old is the concept of zero? There is strong evidence that zero is an Eastern development that came to the West from India or a civilization with roots in India, such as Cambodia. This would mean that zero is not a Greek or Western invention, as scholars had long thought. Mathematics is a wonderful mystery—many questions remain about how and why zero developed in the East and how it likely traveled to Europe.

Journal article

Aczel M, 2019, On fire, Science, Vol: 366, Pages: 191-191, ISSN: 0036-8075

Journal article

Makuch K, Zaman S, Aczel M, 2019, Tomorrow’s stewards: the case for a unified international framework on the environmental rights of children, Health and Human Rights: an international journal, Vol: 21, Pages: 203-214, ISSN: 1079-0969

This paper evaluates an approach for strengthening environmental rights for children to safeguard child health. We focus on children as beneficiaries of environmental rights on account of their vulnerability to environmental impacts on their physical and mental health. Current legal frameworks, unless explicitly identifying children as beneficiaries, arguably tend to be adult-centric. Our goal here is to develop a comprehensive rights-based framework to ensure that children are protected against adverse environmental impacts. We argue that approaches that safeguard children’s rights to life, health, and education should include environment-related issues, standards, and protections for those rights to be fully implemented. We propose employing sustainable development as a framework under which to develop an international treaty to promulgate the environmental rights of the child, thereby promoting health, environmental stewardship, and quality of life for children and future generations. We further argue that children’s environmental rights extend beyond basic “needs”—such as clean air, clean water, sanitation, and a healthful environment, among others—to include the right to benefit from access to nature of a certain quality and the wealth of educational, recreational, developmental, and health benefits that come with ensuring protection of the environment for children.

Journal article

Aczel MR, 2019, What Is the nitrogen cycle and why is it key to life?, Frontiers for Young Minds, Vol: 7

Nitrogen, the most abundant element in our atmosphere, is crucial tolife. Nitrogen is found in soils and plants, in the water we drink, andin the air we breathe. It is also essential to life: a key building blockof DNA, which determines our genetics, is essential to plant growth,and therefore necessary for the food we grow. But as with everything,balance is key: too little nitrogen and plants cannot thrive, leadingto low crop yields; but too much nitrogen can be toxic to plants,and can also harm our environment. Plants that do not have enoughnitrogen become yellowish and do not grow well and can have smallerflowers and fruits. Farmers can add nitrogen fertilizer to produce bettercrops, but too much can hurt plants and animals, and pollute ouraquatic systems. Understanding the Nitrogen Cycle—how nitrogenmoves from the atmosphere to earth, through soils and back to theatmosphere in an endless Cycle—can help us grow healthy crops andprotect our environment.

Journal article

Aczel MR, 2019, Energy Kingdoms, SCIENCE, Vol: 363, Pages: 132-132, ISSN: 0036-8075

Journal article

Aczel MR, 2019, From micro to macro: adventures of a wandering physicist, Contemporary Physics, Vol: 60, Pages: 93-94, ISSN: 0010-7514

Journal article

Aczel MR, Makuch KE, 2019, Shale, Quakes, and High Stakes: Regulating Fracking-Induced Seismicity in Oklahoma, USA and Lancashire, UK, CASE STUDIES IN THE ENVIRONMENT, Vol: 3, ISSN: 2473-9510

Journal article

Aczel MR, Makuch KE, 2018, Environmental impact assessments and hydraulic fracturing: lessons from two U.S. States, Case Studies in the Environment, Vol: 2, Pages: 1-11, ISSN: 2473-9510

Although the United States has been stimulating well production with hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”)1 since the 1940s [1], high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) combined with horizontal drilling is a relatively recent [2, 3] development with potential to adversely impact human health [4], environment [5], and water resources [6], with uncertainty about impacts and gaps in the data on HVHF compared to conventional drilling techniques [7]. Part of protecting environmental and public health is identifying potential risks before licenses are issued and drilling operations proceed. To this end, two case studies, focusing on the environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedures of California and New York, are analyzed in this paper. Both states have histories of strong environmental protection law and policy [8–10] and legally require an EIA to be conducted before development of HVHF sites [11, 12], an outgrowth of the 1969 federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). New York State conducted what appears to be a thorough EIA [13] and concluded that as there were too many gaps in the data on HVHF, fracking could not proceed. California’s EIA, which was less extensive, and did not consider health impacts [14], concluded that HVHF could proceed, relatively unabated. A comparison of these cases illustrates that the processes designed to ensure adequate identification, monitoring, and assessment of environmental impacts are prone to differences [15]—an outcome of the fact that laws governing HVHF in the US are not consistent across, nor controlled at, the federal level [16, 17].

Journal article

Aczel M, 2018, Review of: Get funded: an insider’s guide to building an academic research program, by R. J. Trew, Contemporary Physics, ISSN: 0010-7514

Journal article

Aczel MR, Makuch KE, 2018, Human rights and fracking in England: the role of the Oregon permanent people’s tribunal, Health and Human Rights: an international journal, Vol: 20, Pages: 31-41, ISSN: 1079-0969

The United Kingdom’s government is promoting development of its unconventional natural gas resources in England, following the United States’ commercial success employing horizontal drilling combined with hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) to extract shale gas. The potential impacts of fracking on the environment and health, as well as impacts on local communities and change in ‘quality of life’ are well documented. The UK commenced commercial drilling in the North of England on 15 October, 2018, despite community concerns and legal challenges that suggest potential harm to human health, impacts on environmental quality, inadequate procedural fairness, and limited distributive justice. The UK does not have a written environmental constitution nor any explicit environment-related provisions in the Human Rights Act, 1998, the latter drawing its content from the European Convention on Human Rights, 1950. The lack of explicit recognition of environmental rights-based provisions arguably makes it easier for the UK government to promote a pro-fracking agenda in England aligned to a political agenda rather than broader societal and environmental standards and safeguards. Despite calls for human rights impact assessments in relation to fracking, the UK government is resisting development of further legislation largely on grounds that they are confident the current regulatory regime is ‘more than robust enough’ coupled with the strong desire to promote technological development and industrial growth through extraction of shale gas using fracking. To this end, this perspective piece outlines the potential human rights impacts of ‘fracking’ and argues for a human rights-based, participatory and justice-based approach to regulation. In this context, the paper discusses the findings of the Permanent People’s Tribunal on Human Rights, Fracking, and Climate Change ‘Oregon’ hearing, held May 14-18 2018, an

Journal article

Aczel MR, Makuch KE, 2018, The lay of the land: The public, participation and policy in China's fracking frenzy, Extractive Industries and Society, Vol: 5, Pages: 508-514, ISSN: 2214-790X

This perspective paper examines the current policy landscape for hydraulic fracturing in China, with a focus on the role of public attitudes toward shale gas in China. We highlight the need for further research on public perceptions and responses in a non-democratic society, both for the potential protection of residents who might be affected by the technology as well as the valuable research data that can be contrasted with public perspectives and engagement in other countries. Although the empirical findings presented here are limited due to this being very preliminary research, our goal is to shed light on what existing data shows about current understanding and perceptions. We discuss preliminary data collected during a research trip to Beijing in late December 2017, and contrast it with the few empirical studies on China that exist to date (Sher and Wu, 2018; Yu et al., 2018). Our research demonstrates the need for further investigation of understanding and perceptions of shale gas in China, particularly as other countries (such as the United Kingdom and Poland) are beginning to look at expanding their own shale gas resources. A reflection on this will also lead to a discussion of the extent to which data from China does or does not relate to that from other nations.

Journal article

Aczel M, Makuch K, Chibane M, 2018, How much is enough? Approaches to public participation in shale gas regulation across England, France, and Algeria, The Extractive Industries and Society, Vol: 5, Pages: 427-440, ISSN: 2214-790X

We examine ‘fracking’ for shale gas extraction in England, France, and Algeria, framed from the perspective of level of acceptance by communities and general public. We explore the extent to which public participation in decision-making should play a role in fracking regulation, and evaluate whether the level of public participation matches the legal requirements. Our position on the adequacy of fracking regulation is from the perspective of the public dissenter, outlining a legal and normative basis for public participation in decision-making on fracking. We highlight relevant laws and policies to understand and evaluate adequacy of relevant regulatory processes.We offer strong yet nuanced argumentation, creating space for further discussion by academics, the public, regulators, local decision-makers, fracking companies and others. This is not a typical social-psychology, legal, sociology, or human geography research paper, as we take a position from the beginning: that the public ought to be involved in decisions related to the regulation of fracking, and argue that we validate our approach by supporting our claims throughout the work.

Journal article

Makuch K, Aczel M, 2018, Children and citizen science, Citizen Science: Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy, Editors: Hecker, Hacklay, Bowser, Makuch, Vogel, Bonn, Hecker, Haklay, Bowser, Makuch, Vogel, Bonn, London, United Kingdom, Publisher: UCL Press, Pages: 391-409, ISBN: 978-1-78735-233-9

To date, a cursory examination of the literature tells us that a large number of citizen science projects have been, or are, in the environmental domain. It is thus on environmental citizen science that we focus this work. This chapter suggests why children ought to be involved in citizen science – largely through environmental projects, highlights some case study examples to show positive and negative outcomes of child participation in said projects, comments on the potential contributions to science education and environmental awareness, and highlights some practical considerations of child involvement in citizen science. This work is thus premised on the two-way benefits of engaging children in environmental citizen science:1. Children can both learn from and contribute to environmental knowledge, education and scientific enquiry; and2. Where activities take place outdoors, child involvement in citizen science provides access to the environment, enabling children to develop environmental awareness, responsibility, emotional and physical benefits.As the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) assert in theirformative ‘Ten Principles of Citizen Science’, ‘Citizen science is a flexible concept which can be adapted and applied within diverse situations and disciplines’. It is exactly this adaptability and promotion of diversity which we embrace in this chapter, as we argue that such approaches can open up opportunities, outlined below, for child participation, in the environ- mental field. Furthermore, the involvement of individuals, (thus including children), in citizen science is advocated in ECSA Principle 3, which states that ‘learning opportunities, personal enjoyment, social benefits, satisfaction through contributing to scientific evidence e.g., to address local, national and international issues [. . .] and influence policy’, inter alia, may be some of the gains of participation in citizen science projects, and th

Book chapter

Aczel M, 2018, Book review: The law of fracking, by James T. O'Reilly, European Energy and Environmental Law Review, Vol: 27, Pages: 201-206, ISSN: 0966-1646

Journal article

Aczel M, Makuch K, 2018, An assessment of current regulation and suggestions for a citizen-centered approach to the governing of UK hydraulic fracturing, Energy, Resource Extraction and Society Impacts and Contested Futures, Editors: Szolucha, ISBN: 9780815380153

This chapter explores the specifi c local context of shale gas extraction in Lancashire in the north of England and examines how policy development can strengthen protections. We demonstrate here that a broaderunderstanding of impacts and an improved approach to assessing these impactsis needed. We further examine how international legal and policy frameworks may play a part in protecting citizens and their communities when local and national legal regimes fail to safeguard human rights and access to justice.

Book chapter

Aczel MR, 2018, The Shale Dilemma: A Global Perspective on Fracking & Shale Development, ENERGY RESEARCH & SOCIAL SCIENCE, Vol: 42, Pages: 134-135, ISSN: 2214-6296

Journal article

Aczel M, 2018, Regulating shale gas: the challenge of coherent environmental and energy regulation by Leonie Reins, European Energy and Environmental Law Review, Vol: 27, Pages: 175-178, ISSN: 0966-1646

Journal article

Aczel M, 2018, The dialogues: conversations about the nature of the universe, Contemporary Physics, Vol: 59, Pages: 318-319, ISSN: 0010-7514

Journal article

Aczel M, 2018, China and the geopolitics of rare earths, INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, Vol: 94, Pages: 937-939, ISSN: 0020-5850

Journal article

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