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In Mexico, A Motorized Rickshaw Challenge To Uber

Uber may have global ambitions, but the Mexican city of Guadalajara offers an example of how local resourcefulness can still hard to beat. By welding on extra features, including passenger seats, some Guadalajara entrepreneurs are turning electric rickshaws and scooters brought in from India and Italy into bike taxis that are giving Uber a run for its money.

Enhancing, or even assembling, ramshackle vehicles is nothing new in Mexico as anyone who has used a microbus in the capital will know. These buses and bike taxis, including many enhanced versions of the Italian scooter brand Piaggio, thrive in a country where millions can only afford cheap transport.

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A rickshaw in Oaxaca, Mexico (2010) — Photo: Antti T. Nissinen

One seller in Zapopan, a western suburb of Guadalajara, told El Informador that a remodeled rickshaw can earn you 300 pesos ($16.50) a day, which can recoup the initial investment in just six months. Each one costs around 64,000 pesos ($3,500).

This mode of transport is not tightly regulated, and requires little paperwork for now; and while many avoid them for safety fears, they are already making some 46,000 trips a day in and around the city of some 1.5 million, reports El Informador, which is based in Guadalajara.

A salesman in Tlajomulco south of the city toldthe paper: "It's simple. If you buy an Uber, the car costs 160,000 pesos ($8,800). You have to pay for the application and rent the car out. The (motorized rickshaws) require so much less in startup costs, are three times more profitable ...and carry almost twice as many people as Uber."

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The Problem With Always Blaming Climate Change For Natural Disasters

Climate change is real, but a closer look at the science shows there are many factors that contribute to weather-related disasters. It is important to raise awareness about the long-term impact of global warming, but there's a risk in overstating its role in the latest floods or fires.

People on foot, on bikes, motorcycles, scooters and cars navigate through a flooded street during the day time.

Karachi - People wade through flood water after heavy rain in a southern Pakistani city

Xinhua / ZUMA
Axel Bojanowski


BERLIN — In September, thousands of people lost their lives when dams collapsed during flooding in Libya. Engineers had warned that the dams were structurally unsound.

Two years ago, dozens died in floods in western Germany, a region that had experienced a number of similar floods in earlier centuries, where thousands of houses had been built on the natural floodplain.

Last year saw more than 1,000 people lose their lives during monsoon floods in Pakistan. Studies showed that the impact of flooding in the region was exacerbated by the proximity of human settlements, the outdated river management system, high poverty rates and political instability in Pakistan.

There are many factors that contribute to weather-related disasters, but one dominates the headlines: climate change. That is because of so-called attribution studies, which are published very quickly after these disasters to highlight how human-caused climate change contributes to extreme weather events. After the flooding in Libya, German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung described climate change as a “serial offender," while the Tageszeitung wrote that “the climate crisis has exacerbated the extreme rainfall."

The World Weather Attribution initiative (WWA) has once again achieved its aim of using “real-time analysis” to draw attention to the issue: on its website, the institute says its goal is to “analyse and communicate the possible influence of climate change on extreme weather events." Frederike Otto, who works on attribution studies for the WWA, says these reports help to underscore the urgent need for climate action. They transform climate change from an “abstract threat into a concrete one."

In the immediate aftermath of a weather-related disaster, teams of researchers rush to put together attribution studies – “so that they are ready within the same news cycle," as the New York Times reported. However, these attribution studies do not meet normal scientific standards, as they are published without going through the peer-review process that would be undertaken before publication in a specialist scientific journal. And that creates problems.

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