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What experts think of the new EPA report

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We asked politicians, professors and researchers for their views on the EPA’s report on attitudes to the climate crisis in Ireland.

A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicates that people in Ireland believe the climate crisis is happening and that more must be done to address it.

Nearly all (90pc) of those surveyed in the report said the country has a responsibility to act and reduce emissions in order to deal with the crisis, while 85pc admitted they are somewhat worried about it and 37pc are “very worried”.

The report – Climate Change in the Irish Mind – also showed a large increase in people’s engagement on climate issues, with 91pc of people saying the matter is important to them and 72pc claiming they often discuss it with family and friends.

The EPA surveyed 4,000 people in Ireland engaged in a diverse range of topics related to the climate crisis. The report was conducted with the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Green Party MEP Ciarán Cuffe said it’s heartening to see greater interest in climate issues along with more knowledge and concern from citizens, but more has to be done by the Government to address the issues.

“The changes that we need to make to tackle climate change won’t all be easy. There’s a really important role for the State to help citizens with information and finance in certain areas,” Cuffe noted. “For example, the Common Agricultural Policy provides a lot of farm supports and consumes over a third of the EU budget, we need to make sure that money goes to climate action instead of just business as usual.”

Cuffe added that there are important areas the State needs to consider “very carefully”, such as what aspects of transport to focus on, so savings aren’t given to those who can afford to make necessary changes anyway.

‘I sincerely hope this provides the needed evidence for the policymakers to take heed and act on the climate action plans’
– PROF FIONA REGAN

A majority of Irish people surveyed by the EPA were shown to support climate action, with 79pc believing it should be a high priority for Government. Most people support spending carbon tax revenues on programmes to reduce carbon emissions and to prepare for impacts of the climate crisis.

Prof Jennifer McElwain, chair of botany at Trinity College Dublin, said the report clearly shows the public is “shouting loudly” for political leadership and climate action.

“We should be very proud as a country of the high level of engagement and understanding demonstrated in the responses to this survey,” McElwain said.

But while a majority of people in the country support climate action, a 2021 review by the Climate Change Advisory Council released last week found a significant time lag between climate policy and action in Ireland.

In science we trust

Scientists were regarded as the most trusted source of information about the climate emergency, with the EPA coming second at 89pc and educators at 88pc.

Prof Patrick Guiry, director of the Centre for Synthesis and Chemical Biology at University College Dublin, said it’s a good sign for the future that people seem to appreciate the views and knowledge of the scientific community.

“It is reassuring that in contrast to many countries worldwide, the Irish people respect its scientists and the fact that their views are based on evidence,” Guiry noted.

Dr Brian Kelleher of the School of Chemical Sciences at Dublin City University (DCU) echoed this, adding that the report seems like a “big improvement” overall in terms of people’s views on the climate crisis.

He voiced some concern that 33pc of people surveyed said they believe the climate crisis is equally caused by natural changes and human impact, adding that he believes climate education at a younger age is an important step to making people more aware of climate issues.

“Education is important, what I’d like to see is teaching on past climate. It’s trying to understand what we don’t know as well as what we do know. It’s humbling but it gives you an idea of the hugeness of our environment and climate, and what we need to do to understand it.

“I think that’s a great foundation for children and I don’t think it has to be dark. I did this with a school last year, we looked at natural history. The reaction from the students and the questions were brilliant,” Kelleher said.

But he also believes that the Irish Government still has a long way to go if it aims to cut emissions in half by 2030, as laid out in the Climate Action Plan, adding that the change required to make this happen is “huge, more than most of us can fathom”.

Last month the Climate Action Tracker report found that with current pledges, global emissions will still be twice as high as they need to be for the world to meet its 2030 targets.

‘The rubber hasn’t hit the road yet with changes people need to make’
– DAVID ROBBINS

While trust in scientists and the EPA as sources of climate information was very high, people’s trust in mainstream media and journalists was lower at 69pc and 66pc.

David Robbins, director of the DCU Centre for Climate and Society, said he would like to see the media become a trusted source of information and believes that a huge amount of communication work needs to be done.

He added that while he’s “pleasantly surprised” by how prevalent the climate crisis is in people’s thinking, there are still challenges ahead when it comes to implementing policies.

“People have clearly become more informed and more aware of the issues. That’s fine, but then you try and put a cycle lane in Sandymount. When policies impact people in how they want to travel or heat their homes, I think that will be another challenge,” Robbins added.

“While we may talk about it a lot, there’s still a lot to be done in getting the policies in … The rubber hasn’t hit the road yet with changes people need to make.”

Water fears

A strong majority of those surveyed were concerned with the potential impacts of the climate emergency, with 88pc believing it has impacted Irish weather and 75pc fearing that moderate to extreme weather changes will impact their communities over the next 10 years.

People were also concerned with local environmental hazards, with 81pc of people surveyed saying they were concerned about water pollution. Prof Fiona Regan, director of the DCU Water Institute, said there was a “remarkable response” to the survey.

“If we take all of the water-related hazards; water pollution, flooding, rising sea levels, water shortages – over 20pc are very worried or over 30pc somewhat worried about some of these threats.”

Regan said she was “amazed” at the results of this report and curious to understand more about people’s concerns, such as if the fears of pollution are focused on bathing water pollution or drinking water.

“I congratulate the EPA and Yale collaborators on this survey, and I sincerely hope that it provides the needed evidence for the policymakers to take heed and act on the climate action plans.”

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Iran reveals use of cryptocurrency to pay for imports • The Register

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Iran has announced it used cryptocurrency to pay for imports, raising the prospect that the nation is using digital assets to evade sanctions.

Trade minister Alireza Peyman Pak revealed the transaction with the tweet below, which translates as “This week, the first official import order was successfully placed with cryptocurrency worth ten million dollars. By the end of September, the use of cryptocurrencies and smart contracts will be widespread in foreign trade with target countries.”

It is unclear what Peman Pak referred to with his mention of widespread use of crypto for foreign trade, and the identity of the foreign countries he mentioned is also obscure.

But the intent of the announcement appears clear: Iran will use cryptocurrency to settle cross-border trades.

That’s very significant because Iran is subject to extensive sanctions aimed at preventing its ability to acquire nuclear weapons and reduce its ability to sponsor terrorism. Sanctions prevent the sale of many commodities and technologies to Iran, and financial institutions aren’t allowed to deal with their Iranian counterparts, who are mostly shunned around the world.

As explained in this advisory [PDF] issued by the US Treasury, Iran has developed numerous practices to evade sanctions, including payment offsetting schemes that let it sell oil in contravention of sanctions. Proceeds of such sales are alleged to have been funnelled to terrorist groups.

While cryptocurrency’s anonymity has been largely disproved, trades in digital assets aren’t regulated so sanctions enforcement will be more complex if Iran and its trading partners use crypto instead of fiat currencies.

Which perhaps adds more weight to the argument that cryptocurrency has few proven uses beyond speculative trading, making the ransomware industry possible, and helping authoritarian states like Iran and North Korea to acquire materiel for weapons.

Peyman Pak’s mention of “widespread” cross-border crypto deals, facilitated by automated smart contracts, therefore represents a challenge to those who monitor and enforce sanctions – and something new to worry about for the rest of us. ®



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Edwards Lifesciences is hiring at its ‘key’ Shannon and Limerick facilities

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The medtech company is hiring for a variety of roles at both its Limerick and Shannon sites, the latter of which is being transformed into a specialised manufacturing facility.

Medical devices giant Edwards Lifesciences began renovations to convert its existing Shannon facility into a specialised manufacturing centre at the end of July.

The expansion will allow the company to produce components that are an integral part of its transcatheter heart valves. The conversion is part of Edwards Lifesciences’ expansion plan that will see it hire for hundreds of new roles in the coming years.

“The expanded capability at our Shannon facility demonstrates that our operations in Ireland are a key enabler for Edwards to continue helping patients across the globe,” said Andrew Walls, general manager for the company’s manufacturing facilities in Ireland.

According to Walls, hiring is currently underway at the company’s Shannon and Limerick facilities for a variety of functions such as assembly and inspection roles, manufacturing and quality engineering, supply chain, warehouse operations and project management.

Why Ireland?

Headquartered in Irvine, California, Edwards Lifesciences established its operations in Shannon in 2018 and announced 600 new jobs for the mid-west region. This number was then doubled a year later when it revealed increased investment in Limerick.

When the Limerick plant was officially opened in October 2021, the medtech company added another 250 roles onto the previously announced 600, promising 850 new jobs by 2025.

“As the company grows and serves even more patients around the world, Edwards conducted a thorough review of its global valve manufacturing network to ensure we have the right facilities and talent to address our future needs,” Walls told SiliconRepublic.com

“We consider multiple factors when determining where we decide to manufacture – for example, a location that will allow us to produce close to where products are utilised, a location that offers advantages for our supply chain, excellent local talent pool for an engaged workforce, an interest in education and good academic infrastructure, and other characteristics that will be good for business and, ultimately, good for patients.

“Both our Shannon and Limerick sites are key enablers for Edwards Lifesciences to continue helping patients across the globe.”

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Meta’s new AI chatbot can’t stop bashing Facebook | Meta

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If you’re worried that artificial intelligence is getting too smart, talking to Meta’s AI chatbot might make you feel better.

Launched on Friday, BlenderBot is a prototype of Meta’s conversational AI, which, according to Facebook’s parent company, can converse on nearly any topic. On the demo website, members of the public are invited to chat with the tool and share feedback with developers. The results thus far, writers at Buzzfeed and Vice have pointed out, have been rather interesting.

Asked about Mark Zuckerberg, the bot told BuzzFeed’s Max Woolf that “he is a good businessman, but his business practices are not always ethical. It is funny that he has all this money and still wears the same clothes!”

The bot has also made clear that it’s not a Facebook user, telling Vice’s Janus Rose that it had deleted its account after learning about the company’s privacy scandals. “Since deleting Facebook my life has been much better,” it said.

The bot repeats material it finds on the internet, and it’s very transparent about this: you can click on its responses to learn where it picked up whatever claims it is making (though it is not always specific).

This means that along with uncomfortable truths about its parent company, BlenderBot has been spouting predictable falsehoods. In conversation with Jeff Horwitz of the Wall Street Journal, it insisted Donald Trump was still president and would continue to be “even after his second term ends in 2024”. (It added another dig at Meta, saying Facebook “has a lot of fake news on it these days”.) Users have also recorded it making antisemitic claims.

BlenderBot’s remarks were foreseeable based on the behavior of older chatbots such as Microsoft’s Tay, which Twitter users quickly taught to be a racist conspiracy theorist, forcing the company to apologize for its “wildly inappropriate and reprehensible words and images”. GPT-3, another AI system, has also delivered racist, misogynist and homophobic remarks. A South Korean startup’s chatbot, designed to resemble a 20-year-old college student, had to be suspended after it rattled off racial slurs and anti-LGBTQ+ remarks.

Given the cesspool that is the internet, Meta appears to have expected similar things from its own service. Before logging on, users must acknowledge that BlenderBot is “likely to make untrue or offensive statements”. As Vice notes, Meta researchers have described the AI tech behind the bot as having “a high propensity to generate toxic language and reinforce harmful stereotypes, even when provided with a relatively innocuous prompt”.

“Everyone who uses Blender Bot is required to acknowledge they understand it’s for research and entertainment purposes only, that it can make untrue or offensive statements, and that they agree to not intentionally trigger the bot to make offensive statements,” said a Meta spokesperson in a statement.

My own conversation with BlenderBot did not veer into that territory, but it did highlight another flaw in the service: its utter inanity.

The bot began by asking me what subject I liked in school. The bot is open about which “persona” it is using in the conversation; our discussion involved a persona it described as “I like to read. I went to college.” When I asked it tough questions, such as which colleges accepted AI bot students, it offered nonsensical replies (“in some ways, aren’t we all chatbots?” No) and offered further reading by saying, “Here’s the link”, without providing a link. It also kept steering the conversation back to chatbots.

It did, however, maintain its firm stance against its own creators. When I said I wasn’t a fan of Facebook’s ethics, it wholeheartedly agreed: “Me too! That is why I stopped using it and just stick with reading books instead.”



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