New Article: “Global Environmental Change and Human Security”

O’Brien, K. & Barnett, J., 2013. Global Environmental Change and Human Security. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 38(1): 373–391.

Abstract: This article reviews research on global environmental change and human security, providing retrospective and tentative prospective views of this field. It explains the roles that the concept of human security has played in research on environmental change, as well as the knowledge that it has contributed. It then discusses the Global Environmental Change and Human Security (GECHS) project as an example of how this research has encouraged a more politicized understanding of the problem of global environmental change, drawing attention to the roles of power, agency, and knowledge. Finally, the article considers new research frontiers that have emerged from this field, including research on social transformations as a means of promoting, sustaining, and enhancing human security in response to complex global environmental challenges. The potential contributions of human security approaches to the next generation of global change research are discussed.

Available for download with subscription here.

New Article: “Alleviating Barriers to Urban Climate Change Adaptation through International Cooperation”

Oberlack, C. & Eisenack, K., 2013. Alleviating Barriers to Urban Climate Change Adaptation through International Cooperation. Global Environmental Change, 1–14.

Abstract: International cooperation on climate change adaptation is regarded as one of the major avenues to reduce vulnerability in developing countries. Nevertheless, it remains unclear which design properties of international arrangements match with specific problems in local adaptation processes. This paper analyses conditions and institutional design options under which international cooperation can facilitate climate adaptation in urban areas in developing countries. We conduct a qualitative meta-analysis of empirical evidence from 23 cases. Using the archetype approach, we identify re-appearing barriers and change factors in urban squatter settlements and municipal public sectors in developing countries. We characterise five generic modes of international cooperation for climate adaptation based on UNFCCC documents, process observation, and literature review. Combining these analyses, we develop testable propositions that explain how specific design options of international arrangements can alleviate barriers and make use of change factors for urban adaptation in developing countries. We find, first, that international cooperation has the most potential to tackle adaptation barriers in squatter settlements if its institutional mechanisms support improvements of procedures and rights in localised state–society interactions. Second, national or regional centres of competence may foster endogenous dynamics in municipal public sectors. Third, national adaptation policies can enable and incentivise municipal adaptation. Fourth, flexible indicators of adaptation benefits are instruments to tailor international decision making and monitoring systems to local needs. We conclude that these insights, the archetypes approach, and a multi-level study design can be used to advance research on international cooperation, barriers, and success factors for climate change adaptation.

Available for download with subscription here.

New Book: ‘Business and Climate Change Governance: South Africa in Comparative Perspective’

Börzel, T.A. & Hamman, R. (2013). Business and Climate Change Governance: South Africa in Comparative Perspective. Palgrave Macmillan. 

Why do business organisations contribute to climate change governance in areas of limited statehood? In many countries, governments are too weak and often also not willing to set and enforce climate change regulations. While companies have the capacities to fill the resulting governance gap, conventional wisdom expects them to take advantage by relocating their production sites in order to escape strict national regulation. Studies on South Africa, Kenya and Germany demonstrate that business contributions to the mitigation and adaptation to climate change vary significantly between countries, sectors and firms. In order to explain these variations, the contributors bring together two important literatures that rarely speak to each other – governance and business management – arguing that the threat of public regulation has an important role in motivating business efforts.

For more information click here.

New Article: ‘Corporate Corruption of the Environment: Sustainability as a Process of Compromise’

Nyberg, D. & Wright, C. (2013). Corporate Corruption of the Environment: Sustainability as a Process of Compromise. The British Journal of Sociology. 64 (3): 1-20.

Abstract: A key response to environmental degradation, climate change and declining biodiversity has been the growing adoption of market principles in an effort to better value the social good of nature.Through concepts such as ‘natural capitalism’ and ‘corporate environmentalism’, nature is increasingly viewed as a domain of capitalist endeavour. In this article, we use convention theory and a pluralist understanding of social goods to investigate how the social good of the environment is usurped by the alternate social good of the market.Through analysis of interviews with sustainability managers and corporate documentation, we highlight how organizational actors employ compromise to temporally settle disputes between competing claims about environmental activities. Our findings contribute to an understanding of the processes of empirically grounded critique and the undertheorized concept of compromise between social goods. Rather than protecting the environment, the corporate promotion of sustainability facilitates the corruption of the social good of the environment and its conversion into a market commodity.

Available for download with subscription here.

 

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 Book: ‘Managing Adaptation to Climate Risk: Beyond Fragmented Responses’

O’Brien, B. & O’Keefe, P. (2013). Managing Adaptation to Climate Risk: Beyond Fragmented Responses. Routledge.

Climate change is the single largest threat to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and sustainable development. Addressing climate risk is a challenge for all. This book calls for greater collaboration between climate communities and disaster development communities. In discussing this, the book will evaluate the approaches used by each community to reduce the adverse effects of climate change. One area that offers some promise for bringing together these communities is through the concept of resilience. This term is increasingly used in each community to describe a process that embeds capacity to respond to and cope with disruptive events. This emphasizes an approach that is more focused on pre-event planning and using strategies to build resilience to hazards in an adaptation framework. The book will conclude by evaluating the scope for a holistic approach where these communities can effectively contribute to building communities that are resilient to climate driven risks.

For more information click here.

 

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.

Available for download with subscription here.

New Article: “Limits to Adaptation to Climate Change: A Risk Approach”

Dow, K., Berkhout, F., Preston, B.L., (2013). Limits to Adaptation to Climate Change: A Risk Approach. Environmental Sustainability. 5: 1-8.

Abstract: As attention to adaptation to climate change increases, there is a growing call for adaptation approaches that focus on risk management. There is also greater recognition that the rate and magnitude of climate variability and change may exceed the limits to adaptation of socio-ecological systems. We offer an actor-centered, risk-based definition for adaptation limits in social systems. Specifically, we frame adaptation limits as the point at which an actor’s objectives cannot be secured from intolerable risks through adaptive actions. These limits are significant because exceeding a limit will either result in intolerable losses on the affected actor or system, or precipitate a discontinuous (or transformational) change of behavior by actors. Such discontinuities in behavior have implications for the distribution of risks, with potentially significant governance consequences. We further argue that some adaptation limits are dynamic through time. We conclude with recommendations for further research into adaptation limits and challenges to risk governance.

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.

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