New Article: ‘Déjà Vu or Something New? The Adaptation Concept in the Climate Change Literature’

Bassett, T.J. & Fogelman, C. (2013). Déjà Vu or Something New? The Adaptation Concept in the Climate Change Literature. Geoforum. 48: 42-53.

Abstract: This paper reflects on the resurgence and meaning of the adaptation concept in the current climate change literature. We explore the extent to which the early political economic critique of the adaptation concept has influenced how it is used in this literature. That is, has the current conceptualization been enriched by the political economic critique of the 1970s and 1980s and thus represent something new? Or is the concept used in a way today that echoes previous debates; that is, is this a déjà vu experience? To answer this question, we review the early political economic critique of the natural hazards school’s interpretations of vulnerability and adaptation. We then examine the revival of the adaptation concept in the climate change literature and discuss its main interpretations. For the purposes of this paper, the climate change literature encompasses the four IPCC reports and adaptation-focused articles in four scholarly journals: Global Environmental Change, Climatic Change, Climate and Development, and Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change. Our content analysis shows the dominance (70%) of ‘‘adjustment adaptation’’ approaches, which view climate impacts as the main source of vulnerability. A much smaller percentage (3%) of articles focus on the social roots of vulnerability and the necessity for political–economic change to achieve ‘‘transformative adaptation.’’ A larger share (27%) locates risk in both society and the biophysical hazard. It promotes ‘‘reformist adaptation,’’ typically through ‘‘development,’’ to reduce vulnerability within the prevailing system. We conclude with a discussion of continuity and change in the conceptualization of adaptation, and point to new research directions.

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New Article: ‘Climate Justice and Global Cities: Mapping the Emerging Discourses’

Bulkeley, H., Carmin, J., Broto, V.C., Edwards, G.A.S., Fuller, S. (2013). Climate Justice and Global Cities: Mapping the Emerging Discourses. Global Environmental Change. 1-12.

Abstract: Ever since climate change came to be a matter of political concern, questions of justice have been at the forefront of academic and policy debates in the international arena. Curiously, as attention has shifted to other sites and scales of climate change politics matters of justice have tended to be neglected. In this paper, we examine how discourses of justice are emerging within urban responses to climate change. Drawing on a database of initiatives taking place in 100 global cities and qualitative case-study research in Philadelphia, Quito and Toronto, we examine how notions of distributive and procedural justice are articulated in climate change projects and plans in relation to both adaptation and mitigation. We find that there is limited explicit concern with justice at the urban level. However, where discourses of justice are evident there are important differences emerging between urban responses to adaptation and mitigation, and between those in the north and in the south. Adaptation responses tend to stress the distribution of ‘rights’ to protection, although those in the South also stress the importance of procedural justice. Mitigation responses also stress ‘rights’ to the benefits of responding to climate change, with limited concern for ‘responsibilities’ or for procedural justice. Intriguingly, while adaptation responses tend to stress the rights of individuals, we also find discourses of collective rights emerging in relation to mitigation.

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New Article: “Disaster, Resilience and Security in Global Cities”

Prior, T. & Roth, F., (2013). Disaster, Resilience and Security in Global Cities. Journal of Strategic Security, 6(2): 59-69.

Abstract: Today the majority of the globe’s inhabitants live in urban areas, and according to all prognoses, cities will continue to grow in the coming decades. Global cities are also becoming increasingly connected as a result of economic, political, cultural and demographic globalization. In the context of urban security management, the growing complexity these connections bring may present a double- edged sword: global cities can be both the most secure and the most dangerous places to be when disaster strikes. Developing appropriate mechanisms to prepare for and cope with complex crises in cities will, in the future, be a key aspect of security policy-making. In this article we explore current trends in research and practice concerning the management of disasters in eight global cities, particularly focusing on aspects of preparedness, response, urban resilience and cooperation. The results of the study indicate that cities must improve the capacity to predict new or unforeseen risk by diversifying capabilities for risk assessment and improving inter-agency collaborations. In addition, cities must adopt new approaches to disaster management that are sufficiently flexible to adapt to a changing risk environment and to safeguard urban security.

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New Article: “Urban Growth and Climate Adaptation in Australia: Divergent Discourses and Implications for Policy-making”

Taylor, B. et al. (2013). Urban Growth and Climate Adaptation in Australia: Divergent Discourses and Implications for Policy-making. Urban Studies. 1-19.

Abstract: Managing urban growth is inherently contentious.  Government policies seek to facilitate and spatially contain growth, while balancing public and private interests. The need for climate adaptation strategies in the urban context is recognised but arguably poorly institutionalised in growth management policies or in urban governance more broadly. This paper considers how debates around urban adaptation and growth management are structured in the discourses of local government, private developers and other actors. A discourse analysis of written submissions and media releases from four urban policy debates in Queensland, Australia, is presented. The analysis highlights the discursive strategies employed by different actors and the way their arguments have been consolidated in the practices of urban policy-making. The analysis suggests a divergence of growth and adaptation storylines, contributing to maintaining the gap between these policy agendas. Progress may be made, however, in the pragmatic discourses of actual policy implementation.

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New Report: ‘Water Security and the Global Water Agenda: A UN-Water Analytical Brief’

Bigas, H. (2013). Water Security and the Global Water Agenda: A UN-Water Analytical Brief. United Nations University – Institute for Water, Environment & Health. 

Foreword: It is fitting that the topic of water security, through the launch of this Analytical Brief, figures among the many celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of World Water Day on 22 March 2013 and the 2013 International Year of Water Cooperation. In recent years, the issue of water security has been gaining traction in the global political agenda and earning attention from national governments at the highest level, in particular for its links to peace and national security, but also for its implications for development issues.

Several recent events and discussions have highlighted these links between water security and international peace; most notably, the High-Level Roundtable Discussion on Water, Peace and Security jointly hosted by the United States, the European Union and UN-Water that took place during the 67th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in September 20121. As highlighted by then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, water security is key for ensuring peace and security, but also for human development. Secretary Clinton highlighted that water security offers opportunities: for cooperation, collaboration, and for addressing challenges in a multi-disciplinary and cross-sectoral way in order to reduce risks for potential conflicts and manage continued sustainable development and growth.

With this Analytical Brief, UN-Water aims to provide a starting point for discussion on the range of issues that collectively fall under the umbrella of water security, identifying the challenges that lay ahead, the necessity of relating water security to policy development, and offering possible options for responding to these challenges. It underlines the important role that cooperation will play in addressing water security challenges, including collaboration between different stakeholders and across all levels, from local to international. The collaborative nature of UN-Water Members and Partners on the Analytical Brief sets an example for cooperation across the UN System for addressing the shared challenges of water security.

The production of this Analytical Brief on water security is timely as the international community prepares for a post-2015 development world through the development of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To this end, this Analytical Brief provides an important input into the discussion on the possible inclusion of an SDG on water, a process to which UN-Water is actively contributing.

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New Article: ‘Translating disaster resilience into spatial planning practice in South Africa: Challenges and champions’

Van Niekerk, W. (2013). Translating disaster resilience into spatial planning practice in South Africa: Challenges and champions.  Jàmbá: Journal of Disaster Risk Studies. 5 (1): 1-6.

Abstract: It is highly likely that hazards and extreme climatic events will occur more frequently in the future and will become more severe – increasing the vulnerability and risk of millions of poor urbanites in developing countries. Disaster resilience aims to reduce disaster losses by equipping cities to withstand, absorb, adapt to or recover from external shocks. This paper questions whether disaster resilience is likely to be taken up in spatial planning practices in South Africa, given its immediate developmental priorities and challenges. In South Africa, issues of development take precedence over issues of sustainability, environmental management and disaster reduction. This is illustrated by the priority given to ‘servicing’ settlements compared to the opportunities offered by ‘transforming’ spaces through post-apartheid spatial planning. The City of Durban’s quest in adapting to climate change demonstrates hypothetically that if disaster resilience were to be presented as an issue distinct from what urban planners are already doing, then planners would see it as insignificant as compared to addressing the many developmental backlogs and challenges. If, however, it is regarded as a means to secure a city’s development path whilst simultaneously addressing sustainability, then disaster resilience is more likely to be translated into spatial planning practices in South Africa.

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Table of Contents Alert: Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions 6

See below for some of the articles that were published in the latest volume of Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions

Sustainability for wellbeing
Timothy O’Riordan
Abstract: I consider the record of failure of the current arrangements of capitalism to deliver sustainability: the failure to anticipate tipping points; the over-optimism of business to deliver sustainability; the immorality of markets; and the increasing loss of public trust in democracy. I consider how to resurrect the meaning and definition of sustainability for the emerging age of human wellbeing and betterment. It is possible that the manner in which our governing institutions function actually contributes to the acceleration and intensity of critical thresholds. I discuss the relationship between international, national and local levels of governing to bring about a transition in the coming decade. I review the conditions to promote citizenship opportunities for otherwise unemployed young people and consider the prospects for the success of such initiatives at the local level. These are not perfectly connected solutions: but they are relevant ingredients for any transition to sustainability.

Economic crisis, long waves and the sustainability transition: An African perspective
Mark Swilling
Abstract: To make sense of the global crisis and a possible transition, many re-interpret the past as a set of successive long-term development cycles that could repeat in future. At the same time environmental pressures have resulted in the notion of a green economy. It is argued that the current global economic crisis simultaneously marks the end of the post-WWII long-term development cycle, the mid-point of the information age and  potentially the start of a new era of sustainable development. It must be recognised that only certain futures are being imagined with Africa’s options largely ignored. As African growth rates rise as demand for its resources increase, it is necessary to question whether Africa is appropriately positioned to take advantage of the next long-term development. The new discourse of ‘resource nationalism’ is promising, but only if governance modalities can be found that can transcend the resource curse.

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