New Article: ‘Urban Environmental Challenges and Climate Change Action in Durban, South Africa’

Roberts, D. & O’Donoghue, S. (2013). Urban Environmental Challenges and Climate Change Action in Durban, South Africa. Environment and Urbanization. DOI: 10.1177/0956247813500904

Abstract: This paper reflects on the progress made in climate change adaptation in the city of Durban since the launch of the Municipal Climate Protection Programme in 2004. This includes the initial difficulties in getting the attention of key sectors within municipal government, and how this was addressed and also served by the more detailed understanding of the range of adaptation options and their cost-benefits. There is also a better understanding of the potentials and constraints on community-based adaptation and the opposition from some landowners to measures to protect and enhance ecosystem services. The paper ends with lessons learnt that contradict some common assumptions – for instance, what approaches best build support for climate change adaptation within local governments, what measures work and from where lessons can be drawn. It also describes the perhaps unexpected linkages between local action and international influence and highlights the need for international climate change negotiations to recognize the key roles of urban governments in developing locally rooted adaptation and resilience.

Available for download with subscription here.

New Report: “Environmental Guidance Note for Disaster Risk Reduction: Healthy Ecosystems for Human Security and Climate Change Adaptation”

Sudmeier-Rieux, K., Ash, N. and Murti, R. (2013). Environmental Guidance Note for Disaster Risk Reduction: Healthy Ecosystems for Human Security and Climate Change Adaptation. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN, 1-34.

Introduction: This note was developed to provide guidance on the benefits of and ways to integrate environmental concerns into disaster risk reduction strategies (DRR) at the local and national levels. As recognised and outlined within the Hyogo Framework for Action priority 4: “Reduce the Underlying Risk Factors”, healthy ecosystems and environmental management are considered key actions in DRR. Although the field of disaster risk management has evolved to recognize the need for addressing sustainable development issues for reducing risk, the environmental dimension has not to date received adequate attention and practical guidance.

The questions we would like to answer with this guidance note are:
• What are healthy ecosystems and why do they matter to disaster risk reduction?
• How can ecosystems contribute to reducing disasters?
• What is ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction?
• How can we integrate ecosystem management and disaster risk management?

The rise in number and intensity of many extreme hydro-meteorological events is increasingly recognized as being the result of global and regional climate change. More broadly and importantly, the underlying risk factors of disasters are increasing: more people are living in vulnerable areas, such as low lying coastal areas, steep hillsides, flood plains, near cliffs, or in forested areas on the outskirts of cities – most often out of necessity, but sometimes out of choice. Environmental degradation is reducing the capacity of ecosystems to meet the needs of people for food and other products, and to protect them from hazards. The people affected by reoccurring disasters are often the most dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, and the appropriate management of ecosystems can play a critical role in their ability to prevent, cope with, and recover from disasters.

For more information click here.

New Article: “Securing Ocean Benefits for Society in the Face of Climate Change”

Ruckelshaus. M. et al. (2013). Securing Ocean Benefits for Society in the Face of Climate Change. Marine Policy. 40: 154-159.

Abstract: Benefits humans rely on from the ocean – marine ecosystem services – are increasingly vulnerable under future climate. This paper reviews how three valued services have, and will continue to, shift under climate change: (1) capture fisheries, (2) food from aquaculture, and (3) protection from coastal hazards such as storms and sea-level rise. Climate adaptation planning is just beginning for fisheries, aquaculture production, and risk mitigation for coastal erosion and inundation. A few examples are highlighted, showing the promise of considering multiple ecosystem services in developing approaches to adapt to sea-level rise, ocean acidification, and rising sea temperatures.

Ecosystem-based adaptation in fisheries and along coastlines and changes in aquaculture practices can improve resilience of species and habitats to future environmental challenges. Opportunities to use market incentives – such as compensation for services or nutrient trading schemes – are relatively untested in marine systems. Relocation of communities in response to rising sea levels illustrates the urgent need to manage human activities and investments in ecosystems to provide a sustainable flow of benefits in the face of future climate change.

Available for download with subscription here.

New Article: ‘Pathways of Integrated Coastal Management from National Policy to Local Implementation: Enabling Climate Change Adaptation’

Celliers, L. et al. (2013). ‘Pathways of Integrated Coastal Management from National Policy to Local Implementation: Enabling Climate Change Adaptation. Marine Policy. 39: 72 – 86

Abstract: Integrated coastal management (ICM) has been developing concomitantly with the realisation of the severity of the potential impacts of climate change. The discourse on climate change and adaptation has also included the awareness that adaptation must take place at all levels of government, particularly local government. Climate change is expected to have significant impacts on the physical, social, environmental and economic environments of coastal cities and towns, and in particular on the poor and vulnerable communities within these cities and towns. The crucial role that local government can play in climate protection and building cities’ and communities’ resilience to climate change is widely recognised at the global level. This paper explores the legal and policy connexion between ICM, local government and climate change in Mozambique and South Africa, two developing countries in Africa. The state of institutionalisation of coastal management at national through to local government is also examined. The authors contend that the state, character and maturity of the ICM policy domain can create an enabling environment within which local government agencies can prepare for future impacts of climate change. Conversely it can also limit, delay and hinder climate change adaptation. The paper concludes with the identification of some key success factors for assessing the effectiveness of the existing policy and legal frameworks to respond to the challenges of climate change. It also identifies some key principles to be included in future legislative reform to promote ICM, cooperative governance and greater preparedness for climate change at local government level.

Available for download with subscription here.


New Report: ‘Recovery from Disaster: Resilience, Adaptability and Perceptions of Climate Change’

Boon, H.J., Millar, J., Lake, D., Cottrell, A., & King, D. (2012). Recovery from Disaster: Resilience, Adaptability and Perceptions of Climate Change. National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility. Gold Coast.

Abstract: Focused on four disaster-impacted communities: Beechworth and Bendigo (VIC) and Ingham and Innisfail (QLD) this report makes recommendations for emergency management and local government policies.

Disasters disrupt multiple levels of socio-cultural systems in which lives are embedded. The study used Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological systems theory to analyse individual and, by proxy, community resilience. The theory provided a comprehensive framework to evaluate the interacting factors that support resilience across different disaster sites and communities. While Bronfenbrenner’s theory has been used extensively, the authors believe that this is the first time it has been used to model disaster resilience.

The project aimed to:
1) Identify private and public sector groups’ beliefs, behaviours and policies that have supported community resilience to a disaster event;
2) Examine the commonalities of the experience for the four types of disaster and the possible impact of their respective intensities, duration and perceived frequency, as well as how well communities cope with the unexpected;
3) Assess the degree of community resilience in each of four study sites in disaster affected areas; and
4) Construct a model with findings to help implement appropriate and equitable emergency management policies and mitigation strategies for climate change events.

A key hypothesis underpinning the research was that individuals remaining in the disaster impacted communities were likely to be resilient to disaster.

For more information click here.


New Article: ‘Cultural Dimensions of Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation’

Adger, N.W. et al. (2013). Cultural Dimensions of Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation. Nature Climate Change. 3: 112-117. DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1666

Abstract: Society’s response to every dimension of global climate change is mediated by culture. We analyse new research across the social sciences to show that climate change threatens cultural dimensions of lives and livelihoods that include the material and lived aspects of culture, identity, community cohesion and sense of place. We find, furthermore, that there are important cultural dimensions to how societies respond and adapt to climate-related risks. We demonstrate how culture mediates changes in the environment and changes in societies, and we elucidate shortcomings in contemporary adaptation policy.

Available for download with subscription here.

New Article: ‘Women and Climate Change: Strategies for Adaptive Capacity in Mwanga District, Tanzania’

Muthoni, J.W. and Wangui, E.E. (2013). Women and Climate Change: Strategies for Adaptive Capacity in Mwanga District, Tanzania. African Geographical Review. DOI:10.1080/19376812.2012.756766

Abstract:  This paper highlights the role that women in Mangio Village, Mwanga District, Tanzania play in rural livelihoods in the context of a changing climate. Data were collected in 2011 at community, household and individual levels. Methods of data collection included focus group discussions, and in-depth interviews with household members, individuals and key informants. Qualitative data analyses were done using NVIVO software. Results indicate that despite having limited access to livelihood assets compared to men, women play an important role in enhancing the adaptive capacity that Mangio Village has to climate change. Their roles extend from family units to the community level where they contribute in all the major spontaneous and planned strategies that the village has taken up in response to a changing climate among other drivers. Key to women’s contribution is their social networks and the labor required in new activities that enhance adaptation.

Available for download with subscription here.

Editorial by David Sattherthwaite: ‘Why is community action needed for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation?’

Extract:  When disasters happen, the speed and effectiveness of response depends very heavily on local organizations that represent the needs  of those most impacted and most vulnerable. As the paper by Jorgelina Hardoy, Gustavo Pandiella and Luz Stella Velásquez Barrero notes, it is atthe local or neighbourhood level that disasters happen, lives and livelihoods are lost, houses and infrastructure damaged or destroyed, and health and education compromised. It is also at the local level that many of the disaster risks can be addressed before disasters occur. Much of the responsibility for disaster risk reduction falls to local governments and much of the death and destruction from disasters shows up the failings of local government. The success of post-disaster actions is also to a large extent determined by pre-disaster planning and awareness and readiness within local government and civil society organizations. In this way, community action and partnerships with local government are central not just to minimizing risk but also in responding to impact and shaping recovery in ways that can strengthen local livelihoods and quality of life.

Full Citation: Sattherthwaite, D. (2011). Why is community action needed for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation? Environment & Urbanization, 23 (2): 339-349 (Full article available with subscription at:

‘Prioritizing climate change adaptation and local level resilience in Durban, South Africa’

Abstract:  This paper describes the institutional and resource challenges and opportunities in getting different sectors in eThekwini Municipality (the local government responsible for planning and managing the city of Durban) to recognize and respond to their role in climate change adaptation. The Headline Climate Change Adaptation Strategy launched by the municipality in 2006 did not catalyze the development of sectoral plans or significantly influence the Integrated Development Plan, the key document through which the municipal government sets and implements development priorities. Possible causal factors for this include limited human and financial resources and more immediate and urgent development needs. To address the situation, the municipality’s Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department encouraged and supported three pilot sectors to develop their own municipal adaptation plans. This more sectoral approach encouraged greater interaction among the sectors and provided each with a clearer understanding of their needs and roles from an adaptation perspective. It also highlighted how climate change adaptation could be used as a tool to address development priorities. This work will be extended through research into the cost-benefits of Durban being an “early adapter”. Work has also begun on community-based adaptation (including support for reforestation projects that provide “green jobs”) and on responses to slow onset disasters, food security and water constraints.

Full Citation: Roberts, D. (2010). Prioritizing climate change adaptation and local level resilience in Durban, South Africa, Environment and Urbanization, Vol. 22 (2): 397-413. (Available with subscription from:

Giving attention to indigenous knowledge on climatic changes

Article: Weatherhead E. and S. Gearheardand R.G. Barry (2010): Changes in weather persistence: Insight from Inuit knowledge.

I found this paper hugely interesting. The main message as I see it, that indigenous knowledge is important to incorporate regarding climate change research, is a statement that is given growing attention and it will be interesting to follow this development. Not only can collaboration between indigenous and professional knowledge increase understanding of climate change, but it also encourages more mutual respectful collaboration between scientist and locals – which I also perceive as a central issue in attempting to improve adaptation to climate change more generally.

Abstract from journal article:

Since the 1990s, local residents from around the Arctic have reported changes in weather predictability. Examination of environmental measurements have not, until now, helped describe what the local inhabitants have been reporting, in part because prior studies did not focus directly on the persistence aspect of weather. Here we show that there is evidence of changes in persistence in weather over the last two decades for Baker Lake, Nunavut, Canada. Hourly data indicate that for local spring, the persistence of temperature has changed dramatically in the last 15 years with some years showing a strong drop in day-to-day persistence in the local spring afternoons, somewhat at odds with changes in persistence on a more global scale. Changes in daily persistence may have implications for human health, agriculture, and ecosystems worldwide. More importantly, the approach of merging indigenous knowledge with scientific methods may offer unexpected benefits for both.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 62 other followers