New Article: ‘Experiences of Integrated Assessment of Climate Impacts, Adaptation and Mitigation Modelling in London and Durban’

Walsh, C.L., Roberts, D., Dawson, R.J., Hall, J.W., Nickson, A., Hounsome, R. (2013). Experiences of Integrated Assessment of Climate Impacts, Adaptation and Mitigation Modelling in London and Durban. Environment and Urbanization.  DOI: 10.1177/0956247813501121

Abstract: The urgent need to reconfigure and transform urban areas to consume fewer resources, emit less pollution, minimize greenhouse gas production, protect natural ecosystems and increase the adaptive capacity to deal with climate risks is widely recognized. The implementation of improved sustainability measures in cities requires integrated thinking that encompasses a whole range of urban functions, often implying a major restructuring of urban energy systems, transport and the built environment, as well as a new approach to the planning and management of natural systems that service urban areas. Many local governments have a limited capacity to deal with such complex and interrelated problems, and this hampers their ability to deal with climate change. With these issues in mind, teams of scientists, practitioners and stakeholders in Durban (led by eThekwini Municipality) and London (led by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research) developed city-scale integrated assessment modelling tools that represent interactions between different urban functions and objectives by linking climate change issues to broader agendas such as spatial planning. This paper reviews each integrated assessment tool, and critically analyzes their effectiveness in terms of technical approach, extent to which they meet policy needs, role of stakeholders in model development and application, barriers to their uptake and the value of and effort required for integration. While these integrated assessment tools did not provide the detailed design information sought by some decision makers, importantly they have stimulated stakeholders to think strategically and hold cross-sectoral conversations around implementing sustainability measures. Despite the technical and institutional challenges associated with the development and uptake of an integrated assessment model, we conclude that they do contribute to the quest for urban sustainability.

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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: “Pathways for Adaptive and Integrated Disaster Resilience”

Djalante, R., Holley, C., Thomall, F., Carnegie, M., (2013). Pathways for Adaptive and Integrated Disaster Resilience. Natural Hazards. 10.1007/s11069-013-0797-5.

Abstract: The world is experiencing more frequent, deadly and costly disasters. Disasters are increasingly uncertain and complex due to rapid environmental and socio-economic changes occurring at multiple scales. Understanding the causes and impacts of disasters requires comprehensive, systematic and multi-disciplinary analysis. This paper introduces recent multidisciplinary work on resilience, disaster risk reduction (DRR), climate change adaptation (CCA) and adaptive governance and then proposes a new and innovative framework for adaptive and integrated disaster resilience (AIDR). AIDR is defined as the ability of nations and communities to build resilience in an integrated manner and strengthen mechanisms to build system adaptiveness. AIDR provides the ability to face complexities and uncertainties by designing institutional processes that function across sectors and scales, to engage multiple stakeholders and to promote social learning. Based on the review of existing academic and non-academic literature, we identify seven pathways to achieve AIDR. These pathways are a conceptual tool to support scholars, policy makers and practitioners to better integrate existing DRR strategies with CCA and more general development concerns. They describe institutional strategies that are aimed at dealing with complexities and uncertainties by integrating DRR, CCA and development; strengthening polycentric governance; fostering collaborations; improving knowledge and information; enabling institutional learning; self-organisation and networking; and provision of disaster risk finance and insurance. We also examine the implications of these pathways for Indonesia, one of the most vulnerable countries to natural hazards and climate change impacts. Our findings suggest that there is an urgent need to commit more resources to and strengthen multi-stakeholder collaboration at the local level. We also argue for placing the community at the centre of an integrated and adaptive approach to DRR and CCA.

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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: “Exploring Climate Change Uncertainties to Support Adaptive Management of Changing Flood-Risk”

Lawrence, J., Reisinger, A., Mullan, B., Jackson, B. (2013). Exploring Climate Change Uncertainties to Support Adaptive Management of Changing Flood-Risk. Environmental Science & Policy. 33: 133-142.

Abstract: Increasing intensity and frequency of extreme precipitation events projected as a consequence of global warming pose significant challenges for decision-making. Climate change creates a dynamic risk, but flood risk management decision-making based on single ‘best estimate’ scenarios is entrenched within decision-making frameworks and professional operating practices. This conceals uncertainties and focuses attention on enhancements to existing ‘protection’ structures, giving a false sense of security to those living within presumed ‘safe’ areas. A more nuanced, risk-based approach to flood frequency changes is needed to reflect climate change uncertainties, but this is constrained by the high cost and complexity of modelling. We present a quick and relatively low-cost methodology to explore the implications of alternative climate change scenarios for flood frequency, and apply it for illustrative purposes, to the Hutt River located in New Zealand’s lower North Island. Annual exceedance probabilities increase under all scenarios but with considerable differences between alternative emissions scenarios and climate models. We evaluated the salience of this information for planning responses with flood management and planning practitioners. We found that ‘mind-sets’ changed to consider a greater range of response options according to their lock-in potential in existing and Greenfield urban settlements. Tools to rapidly explore alternative futures can therefore support evaluation of a wider range of response options at the exploratory stages of decision-making, which helps avoid planning responses that are predicated on historical experience and a single ‘best estimate’ scenario. This encourages responses that better reflect the changing nature of the risk.

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Special Report: “Natural Disasters as Threats to Peace”

Tipson, F.S. (2013). Natural Disasters as Threats to Peace. United States Institute of Peace. Special Report 324. 1-17.

Summary: 

  • Natural disasters and extreme environmental events are expected to increase in number and severity on a global scale, elevating levels of economic, social, and political stress that could provoke both civil and international conflicts.
  • Population growth, urbanization, economic fragility, and climate change are major factors in an interactive pattern of growing global vulnerabilities, compounded by widespread political inaction to address them.
  • Enlarged urban and coastal populations in strategically important locations are at heightened risk of massive casualties, political strife, and increased regional tensions from major earthquakes, floods, and disease.
  • Large natural disasters could also degrade key dimensions of the global economy—food, water, energy, medicine, supply chains, livelihoods—arousing widespread popular anxieties that could provoke preemptive protective measures.
  • Intelligence agencies, think tanks, and academic specialists should increase their focus on the potential for major disasters in various parts of the world to cause economic, social, and political “ripple effects” that lead to deadly conflicts.
  • Reducing the direct harm of such disasters will require initiatives in three areas: increasing local resilience, improving relief capabilities, and, where unavoidable, facilitating relocation from the most vulnerable areas.
  • Avoiding adverse secondary consequences to political stability and human security will require both national and international collaboration to elevate the priority of preventing violent conflicts that could arise from these “natural assaults.”

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.

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New Article: “Changing Social Contracts in Climate-Change Adaptation”

Adger, W.N. et al. (2013). Changing Social Contracts in Climate-Change Adaptation. Nature Climate Change. 3: 330-333.

Abstract: Risks from extreme weather events are mediated through state, civil society and individual action.We propose evolving social contracts as a primary mechanism by which adaptation to climate change proceeds. We use a natural experiment of policy and social contexts of the UK and Ireland affected
by the same meteorological event and resultant flooding in November 2009. We analyse data from policy documents and from household surveys of 356 residents in western Ireland and northwest England. We find significant differences between perceptions of individual responsibility for protection across the jurisdictions and between perceptions of future risk from populations directly affected by flooding events. These explain differences in stated willingness to take individual adaptive actions when state support retrenches. We therefore show that expectations for state protection are critical in mediating impacts and promoting longer-term adaptation. We argue
that making social contracts explicit may smooth pathways to effective and legitimate adaptation.

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New Book: ‘Defensive Environmentalists and the Dynamics of Global Reform’

Rudel, T. (2013). Defensive Environmentalists and the Dynamics of Global Reform. Cambridge University Press.

Description: As global environmental changes become increasingly evident and efforts to respond to these changes fall short of expectations, questions about the circumstances that generate environmental reforms become more pressing. Defensive Environmentalists and the Dynamics of Global Reform answers these questions through a historical analysis of two processes that have contributed to environmental reforms, one in which people become defensive environmentalists concerned about environmental problems close to home and another in which people become altruistic environmentalists intent on alleviating global problems after experiencing catastrophic events such as hurricanes, droughts and fires. These focusing events make reform more urgent and convince people to become altruistic environmentalists. Bolstered by defensive environmentalists, the altruists gain strength in environmental politics and reforms occur.

For more information click here.

New Book: ‘Cities at Risk: Living with Perils in the 21st Century’

Joffe, H., Rossetto, T. and Adams, J. (2013). Cities at Risk: Living with Perils in the 21st Century. Springer.

Description: With the major growth of the world’s population over the past century, as well as rapid urbanisation, people increasingly live in crowded cities. This trend is often accompanied by proliferation of poorly built housing, uncontrolled use of land, occupation of unsafe environments and overstretched services.  When a natural hazard strikes such a city many people are vulnerable to loss of life and property.  This book explores what these people think and feel about the threats that they face. How do they live with perils ranging from earthquakes to monsoons, from floods to hurricanes, in the 21st century?

The authors are drawn from a large range of disciplines: Psychology, Engineering, Geography, Anthropology and Urban Planning. They also reflect on how perils are represented in multiple cultures: the United States, Japan, Turkey, Bangladesh, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. The book therefore not only brings to light the ways that different cultures represent natural hazards but also the different ways in which various disciplines write about living with perils in the 21st century.

The book is addressed both to researchers and to organizations involved with risk management and risk mitigation.

For more information click here.

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