New Book: ‘Handbook on Climate Change and Human Security’

Redclift, M.R. & Grasso, M. (2013). Handbook on Climate Change and Human Security. Edward Elgar Publishing. 

Description: The Handbook on Climate Change and Human Security is a landmark publication which links the complexities of climate change to the wellbeing and resilience of human populations. It is written in an engaging and accessible way but also conveys the state of the art on both climate change research and work into human security, utilizing both disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches. Organized around thematic sections, each chapter is written by an acknowledged expert in the field, and discusses the key concepts and evidence base for our current policy choices, and the dilemmas of international policy in the field.

For more information click here.

New Report: “Global Problems, African Solutions: African Climate Scientists’ Perspectives on Climate Change”

Edwards, L. (2013). Global Problems, African Solutions: African Climate Scientists’ Perspectives on Climate Change. The Centre for International Governance Division (CIGI), Africa Initiative Discussion Paper Series No. 7.

Abstract: This paper offers a preliminary survey of Africa’s climate scientists’ views on the critical problem of climate change, which has been described as an “out of Africa” problem crying out for “made in Africa” solutions. Based on interviews with these scientists, this paper presents their views on the state of African climate science; discusses the challenges of undertaking scientific research in Africa and ways that research could be done better; identifies the impacts of climate change on contemporary African society and its potential impacts in the future; identifies gaps in the current research agenda on energy, urbanization and migration; and explores the links between climate change and other environmental problems, such as water pollution and deforestation. Finally, while Africa’s scientists value their involvement in international scientific assessments, they would welcome more opportunities to collaborate with their peers on the continent, more dialogue with African policy makers and a broader program of public education, to better equip Africans to take practical actions to meet the challenges of climate change.

For more information click here.

New Report: “The Complexities of Climate Change Adaptation in South African Agriculture”

Findlater, K. (2013). The Complexities of Climate Change Adaptation in South African Agriculture. Backgrounder No. 50. The African Portal. 1-8.


  • Agriculture is a complex and politically contentious industry in South Africa, given its connection to food security, water, health and land reform, and the historic resource imbalances between black and white farmers.
  • As a large country with many fully allocated water basins, different parts of South Africa will face unique challenges related to climate change.
  • Given the varying levels of adaptive capacity between large-scale commercial operations and emerging smallholder farms, South Africa’s national policy response must be prioritized to ensure cohesive and nuanced support for climate change adaptation.

For more information click here.

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.

For more information click here.

New Article: ‘A Fair Share? Perceptions of Justice in South Africa’s Water Allocation Reform Policy’

Movik, S. (2013). A Fair Share? Perceptions of Justice in South Africa’s Water Allocation Reform Policy. Geoforum.  1-9

Abstract: This paper examines the multiple meanings of justice embedded in the notion of environmental justice. It uses research on South Africa’s Water Allocation Reform policy to explore how ideas of justice have shifted in the course of crafting the policy, employing the notion of ‘allocation discourses’ to capture the changing conceptions of justice. South Africa’s reform efforts are part of a global trend that vests the ultimate authority over water resources with the State, which provides it with a large degree of discretion in allocating use rights to resources. Drawing on discourse analysis and interviews with key stakeholders, the paper demonstrates how the early versions of the policy were characterised by desert-oriented and utilitarian interpretations of justice, which then shifted to an explicitly egalitarian perspective in the final version, but which, to-date, has had little practical consequence, however. In the early versions, existing users were portrayed as unilaterally beneficial and productive, and the process of redistribution as a risky venture that could lead to environmental degradation and the economy being undermined, whilst failing to acknowledge the waste and pollution of existing users. The paper highlights the importance of unpacking key concepts and understanding how particular framings of human-nature relations influence ideas of justice, and how these may shift over time.

Available for download with subscription here.

Table of Contents Alert: Annual Review of Environmental Resources 37

See below for some of the articles that was published in the latest edition of Annual Review of Environmental Resources 37

Wicked Challenges at Land’s End: Managing Coastal Vulnerability Under Climate Change
Susanne C. Moser, S. Jeffress Williams, and Donald F. Boesch
Abstract: With continuing influx of large numbers of people into coastal regions, human stresses on coastal ecosystems and resources are growing at the same time that climate variability and change and associated consequences in the marine environment are making coastal areas less secure for human habitation. The article reviews both climatic and nonclimatic drivers of the growing stresses on coastal natural and human systems, painting a picture of the mostly harmful impacts that result and the interactive and systemic challenges coastal managers face in managing these growing risks. Although adaptive responses are beginning to emerge, the adaptation challenge is enormous and requires not just incremental but also transformative changes. At the same time, such “wicked” problems, by definition, defy all-encompassing, definitive, and final solutions; instead, temporary best solutions will have to be sought in the context of an iterative, deliberately learning-oriented risk management framework.

Climate and Water: Knowledge of Impacts to Action on Adaptation
Michael Kiparsky, Anita Milman, and Sebastian Vicuña
Abstract: As adaptation becomes more tightly integrated into the range of responses to climate change, understanding how knowledge of climate change impacts and vulnerabilities can be effectively used is essential both to direct research and to support action. This article reviews literature along an intellectual transect from knowledge of climate impacts on water systems to the influence of that knowledge on adaptation responses. We discuss scientific evidence for changing hydroclimatic regimes, methods for translating climatic information into results relevant to adaptation, uncertainties in these results, methods for addressing uncertainty via adaptation processes, challenges and opportunities for knowledge development and transfer, and sociopolitical factors that enable or hinder the use of knowledge. Challenges remain in developing and applying methods for identifying and reducing underlying vulnerabilities and reliably connecting technical knowledge of climate impacts with local needs remains an unsolved problem. But new decision-making methods and the potential to learn from analogous water management situations provide hope for near-term progress.

Disaster Governance: Social, Political, and Economic Dimensions
Kathleen Tierney
Abstract: Disaster governance is an emerging concept in the disaster research literature that is closely related to risk governance and environmental governance. Disaster governance arrangements and challenges are shaped by forces such as globalization, world-system dynamics, social inequality, and sociodemographic trends. Governance regimes are polycentric and multiscale, show variation across the hazards cycle, and tend to lack integration and to be formulated in response to particular large-scale disaster events. Disaster governance is nested within and influenced by overarching societal governance systems. Although governance failures can occur in societies with stable governance systems, as the governmental response to Hurricane Katrina shows, poorly governed societies and weak states are almost certain to exhibit deficiencies in disaster governance. State-civil society relationships, economic organization, and societal transitions have implications for disaster governance. Various measures can be employed to assess disaster governance; more research is needed in this nascent field of study on factors that contribute to effective governance and on other topics, such as the extent to which governance approaches contribute to long-term sustainability.

Multiactor Governance and the Environment
Peter Newell, Philipp Pattberg, and Heike Schroeder
Abstract: This review critically assesses a large and growing literature on multiactor environmental governance. The first section provides an historical and conceptual background to the observed increase in such arrangements. The second section describes the diversity of governance arrangements and the related actor constellations to address environmental issues, and the third section offers some explanations for the origins, form, and effectiveness of multiactor governance arrangements. The conclusion reflects on some of the key challenges in advancing and deepening research in this area and suggests some fruitful avenues for future work.

Toward Principles for Enhancing the Resilience of Ecosystem Services
Biggs et al.
Abstract: Enhancing the resilience of ecosystem services (ES) that underpin human well-being is critical for meeting current and future societal needs, and requires specific governance and management policies. Using the literature, we identify seven generic policy-relevant principles for enhancing the resilience of desired ES in the face of disturbance and ongoing change in social-ecological systems (SES). These principles are (P1) maintain diversity and redundancy, (P2) manage connectivity, (P3) manage slow variables and feedbacks, (P4) foster an understanding of SES as complex adaptive systems (CAS), (P5) encourage learning and experimentation, (P6) broaden participation, and (P7) promote polycentric governance systems. We briefly define each principle, review how and when it enhances the resilience of ES, and conclude with major research gaps. In practice, the principles often co-occur and are highly interdependent. Key future needs are to better understand these interdependencies and to operationalize and apply the principles in different policy and management contexts.

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New Article: ‘From applying panaceas to mastering complexity: Toward adaptive water governance in river basins’

Abstract: The most persistent obstacles for the sustainable management of water resources lie in the realm of water governance. Numerous recommendations often relying on simplistic ‘standard’ panaceas have been put forward for water governance reform without testing of appropriateness in diverse contexts. Here we present the first comprehensive comparative analysis of complex water governance and management systems in national river basins, compiling insights from 29 basins in developed and developing/emerging countries. To support a generic but contextual diagnostic approach an analytical framework was developed that makes a distinction between water governance regime, regime performance and environmental and socio-economic context. Results provide evidence that polycentric governance regimes characterized by a distribution of power but effective coordination structures have higher performance. This finding is valid for diverse contexts. The results show a weaker and more context dependent influence of legal frameworks on performance. The ability to respond to challenges from climate change is strongly related to polycentric governance and innovative ways for dealing with uncertainty. Furthermore, our results support findings that economic and institutional development often focuses on and leads to fulfilling needs of the human population at the expense of the environment. Rivers in comparatively good condition in countries with poor governance regimes highlight the urgent need to develop effective water governance structures in parallel to economic development.

These exploratory analyses provide valuable methodological and conceptual insights and pave the way for follow-up studies to build a comprehensive knowledge base on complex resource governance systems and diverse management practices worldwide.

Full Citation: Pahl-Wostl, C., Lebel, L., Knieper, C., Nikitina, E. (2012). From applying panaceas to mastering complexity: Toward adaptive water governance in river basins. Environmental Science & Policy, 23: 24-34 (Available for download with subscription at: 


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