New Article: ‘The role of institutions in the transformation of coping capacity to sustainable adaptive capacity’

Abstract: How current coping capacity could be transformed into longer term adaptive capacity is a crucial question for those involved in adaptation planning, especially to enhance sustainability. To shed light on this question, this manuscript will review how coping capacity and adaptive capacity have been conceptualised in resilience and vulnerability approaches to climate change adaptation. The four key challenges to understand the transformation of coping to adaptive capacity include (1) the concealed nature of adaptive capacity; (2) the temporal trade-offs between coping and adaptive capacity; (3) the limited focus to date on rural communities, and; (4) the lack of empirical evidence. The manuscript suggests that institutions play a key role in mediating the transformation of coping capacity into adaptive capacity and that its role can be best researched by combining vulnerability and resilience approaches to climate change adaptation.

Full Citation: Berman, R., Quinn, C., Paavola, J. (2012). The role of institutions in the transformation of coping capacity to sustainable adaptive capacity. Environmental Development, Vol. 2 (2): 86-100 (Articles available for download with subscription at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/22114645). 

New Book: ‘Climate Change at the City Scale: Impacts, Mitigation and Adaptation in Cape Town’

Description: Emerging from the inability, at COP15 (Copenhagen), of nation states and multi- national agencies to agree on a long-term commitment to tackling climate change and managing its consequences, there has been a renewed focus on local and self-styled responses to the challenges. These responses are being formulated in the absence of peer reviewed published reference material. The city-scale has been neglected in the climate change literature, not least because nation states are seen as the drivers of climate negotiations and because the bulk of the academic literature has been on agriculture and rural impacts of climate change. But cities are likely to bear some of the greatest costs of climate change and are critical sites of innovation. The book focuses on the city-scale and explores the role of sub-national government as an agent of action.

The chapters of the book draw from research that was commissioned from specialists under a partnership known as the ‘Cape Town Climate Change Think Tank’. Cape Town has long been acknowledged as an innovator in the area of urban environmental management. Few Southern cities have been as proactive or as successful as Cape Town in putting issues of global environmental change at the core of their governance philosophy and practice. As a highly unequal coastal city with limited resources to manage the demand for a more resilient and equitable future, the Cape Town response to climate change challenges presents an especially provocative case study of the challenges of urban transformation in the context of climate change.

Full Citation: Cartwright, A., Oelofse, G., Parnell, S., Ward, S. (eds.) (2012). Climate Change at the City Scale: Impacts, Mitigation and Adaptation in Cape Town. Routledge: Oxon.

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New Article: ‘Valuing green infrastructure in an urban environment under pressure — The Johannesburg case’

Abstract: This article considers the importance of robust planning for green infrastructure in fast changing Southern African cities. A key theme is the extent to which ecosystem services are valued publicly, and the opportunity costs of not investing in the green infrastructure. We explore green infrastructure through pairing insights of social–ecological resilience with perspectives on urban infrastructure transitions. By converging these views, we show how green infrastructure can be viewed as an innovative response to challenged urban environments.

Through a Johannesburg case study, a number of ecosystem services constitute sources of resilience for an otherwise constrained city. While this is positive and to be valorised, many South African cities are in the midst of service delivery protests, so that resilient ecosystems, and the citizen networks that sustain these, are largely overlooked in planning processes.

This article offers three key conclusions. First, a proper understanding of green infrastructure requires blending insights from social–ecological system thinking and infrastructure transition scholarship. Second, there is a paucity of knowledge around ecosystem services in Johannesburg, and that the planning to facilitate ecosystem service valuation is largely inadequate. Third, addressing this requires ecosystem valuations relevant to the unique conditions in developing world cities such as Johannesburg.

 Full Citation: Schäffler, A. and Swilling, M. (2012). Valuing green infrastructure in an urban environment under pressure – The Johannesburg case. Ecological Economics, doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2012.05.008 (Available for download with subscription: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921800912002212).

New Article: ‘Chaotic Climate Change and Security’

Abstract: During the last decade, the framing of climate change has been significantly transformed. It has turned from a gradually intensifying, long-term challenge into a highly nonlinear danger that threatens national security. This article explores the reasons, and points to the consequences, of this change. Drawing from actor-network theory, it argues that practices and materials have become entangled across professional and disciplinary contexts. The growing association of chaotic climate change encompasses climatologists, who challenge the mainstream ontology of climate; economists, who started to revisit their economic models; and strategic communities, which began to pick up nonlinear climate changes foregrounding national security. Methodologically, the principle of symmetry that underlies this research aims, as far as is possible, to transcend the dualistic notions of science and politics, and society and nature. The article thereby attempts to open up a debate about the usefulness of a symmetrical approach to enhance research both on global environmental governance in particular, and global politics in general.

Full Citation: Mayer, M. (2012), Chaotic Climate Change and Security. International Political Sociology, 6: 165–185. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-5687.2012.00157.x (Available for download with subscription at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ips.2012.6.issue-2/issuetoc). 

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