Climate Change

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glofaseventProfessor Hannah Cloke and Dr Liz Stephens, in collaboration with the Walker Institute, are hosting an afternoon event to showcase the University’s work in developing and supporting flood forecasting capabilities globally. It is open to all University staff and students, plus participants from other organisations who are interested in flood forecasting.

The Open Event will include presentations by keynote speakers from ECMWF, Department for International Development (DFID) the Red Cross Climate Centre and the Joint Research Centre (JRC).

There will be a wine, canapé and poster session and all delegates are invited to submit an A1 poster of their research relating to flooding / flood forecasting if they would like.

In total we are expecting approximately 100 people to attend so this will be a great opportunity for networking and a chance to showcase research from UoR and collaborators.

The event is free to attend but registration is essential – link here: store.rdg.ac/GloFAS_Open_Event

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Giuseppe Feola spent three weeks in February and March 2016 doing fieldwork in south-east Kazakhstan. He was accompanied by postdoctoral researcher Tristam Barrett and worked in close cooperation with colleagues at the Institute of Geography in Almaty. The team also benefitted from the support of the Local Community Fund, an NGO which runs an agribusiness centre in Shelek, near one of the research sites. The research team set out to collet data for the project “Climate change, water resources and food security in Kazakhstan“.

 

Moment of group discussion during the multi-stakeholder workshop in Koram

Moment of group discussion during the multi-stakeholder workshop in Koram

The first phase of the field work involved organising and conducting two multi-stakeholder workshops in the villages of Koram and Karaoi. Both villages have experienced serious water management issues in recent years, and the workshops allowed the research team and the participants to identify the major challenges faced by the water management system in the each location. The workshops enabled productive discussions across the boundaries that traditionally separate farmers, local authorities, NGOs and local scientists, and therefore helped unravel the complex relations between the challenges faced by different actors in dealing with water use in agriculture. For example, the workshops clearly showed that, while climate change affects water availability in this region, infrastructural inadequacies and financial and organisational issues play an important role in limiting the adaptive capacity of the farming system to climate change.

 

Map of the challenges faced by different actors in the local farming system in Karaoi

Map of the challenges faced by different actors in the local farming system in Karaoi

The second phase of the field work involved field visits and semi-structured interviews with 21 participants . With the aid of a mental mapping technique, the interviews allowed us to grasp the interviewee’s understanding of the water management system, in its infrastructural, environmental, and institutional dimensions. Moreover, the interviews also focussed on ongoing adaptation strategies. These include, for example, spontaneous rescheduling of water supply rotations among farmers and farmer self-organisation to clean some of the main irrigation canals and fill the gap let by the inability of the responsible state organisation to maintain the irrigation infrastructure.

 

Example of a mental map of the water system in Koram

Example of a mental map of the water system in Koram

This research will improve understanding of agricultural adaptation to climate change in south-east Kazakhstan, but it also sheds light on the still ongoing post-Soviet transformation of agriculture in this country.

 

You can read more about Giuseppe at his staff profile and personal webpage.

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In the latter part of November 2015, one of the SAGES doctoral researchers, Saeed Abdul-Razak, had the immense privilege to deliver a presentation to kids of the Fulham Preparatory School in London. The presentation was on the ethical dimensions of climate change and sustainable development with over 120 students in attendance. The talk employed interactive approaches including videos (e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRLJscAlk1M), pictures and questions to the audience.

Harvey Glover presents fair trade chocolates to Saaed

Harvey Glover presents fair trade chocolates to Saaed

The kids were introduced to the causes of climate change, development problems around the globe, the new 2015 -2030 sustainable development goals and the role of climate change in achieving these goals. There were case studies from Ghana on climate change mitigation (precisely REDD+) and climate change adaptation (for coastal communities) to explain the ethical implications of climate action.

 

The ethical dimensions aspect of the topic was treated in light of decision making and processes between developed and developing countries at the international level; elites/authorities and citizens at national level; and for the community level, it focused on the vulnerable such as women, children, the poor, etcetera. The presentation concluded on a positive note by encouraging the students to go green, to think globally but act locally as the earth’s resources are finite and human action/inaction are important factors that impact everyone.

Letters from kids of FPS

Letters from kids of FPS

In appreciation for the talk, the school’s current head boy, Harvey Glover, presented Saeed with a jug of fair trade chocolates. A couple of weeks after the talk, the kids wrote lovely letters appreciating the talk and Saeed’s time; some expressed their new inspiration to be green; others had follow-up questions and the remaining expressed how informative the presentation was and how they shared the new knowledge on sustainable actions with their parents, families and friends in order to ‘save the future’.

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Frank getting excited over Amazon mud

Frank getting excited over Amazon mud

Frank Mayle spent much of his summer 2015 doing fieldwork in tropical South America.  Late June to late July was spent in the Bolivian Amazon, accompanied by his two PhD students (Richard Smith and Heather Plumpton), postdoctoral researcher (John Carson) and Bolivian botanist Daniel Soto.  This involved collecting sediment cores from lakes and bogs and digging soil pits.  These samples are then shipped back to Reading where they are analysed for their microfossils – pollen, charcoal and phytoliths – using light microscopy, to understand the impact of climate change and indigenous human land use upon Amazonian forests over the past several millennia.

After a few weeks back home, Frank was then off to Brazil for a month (mid August to mid September), where he is a visiting scientist at the University of Sao Paulo – funded by Brazil’s CNPq Science Without Borders programme.  After 2 days on the road, the UK-Brazil research team reached the field area of northern Espirito Santo and southern Bahia – in the core of the Atlantic rainforest, or what’s left of it.  As with Bolivia, the fieldwork involved using coring equipment to collect sediment cores from bogs in order to analyse the DSC00146preserved fossil pollen to reconstruct the long-term history of rainforest dynamics in response to environmental change, in this case dating back to the last ice age.

This research will improve understanding of the response of South America’s tropical rainforest ecosystems to drier climate conditions of the distant past, and thereby provide important insights into the likely response of these globally important ecosystems to future increased drought predicted by most climate models.

 

You can read more about Frank at his staff profile.

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The Climate and Development Knowledge Network has a new report on research co-authored by Dr Emily Boyd on an experimental project in Maputo, Mozambique on participation and planning for climate change.

“Giving each citizen a voice is essential to developing the potential of local communities to both engage with climate change information and to catalyse action for climate change.”

maputo-market-jamesstapley-freeimagesMozambique is highly vulnerable to natural disasters, in particular those of hydro-meteorological origin such as floods, drought and cyclones. Since 1970, Mozambique has been hit by 34 cyclones or tropical depressions and five major flood events, which have had dramatic social and economic consequences.

The project ‘Public, Private, People Partnerships for Climate Compatible Development (4PCCD) in Maputo, Mozambique, developed participatory planning methods to foster partnerships between actors within different sectors in order to tackle climate change through actions in specific locations in Maputo. The objective of the project was the creation of partnerships that could integrate climate change concerns fully, while at the same time addressing directly the concerns of local residents.

You can read the report here.

The Authors

The authors of the paper are Vanesa Castán Broto, Bartlett Development Planning Unit, University College London, London, UK; Emily Boyd, University of Reading, Reading, UK; Jonathan Ensor, University of York, York, UK; Carlos Seventine, Fundo Nacional do Ambiente (FUNAB), Maputo, Mozambique; Domingos Augusto Macucule, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Maputo, Mozambique; and Charlotte Allen, Independent Consultant, UK. The team prepared the learning paper as part of a learning programme on subnational climate compatible development facilitated by CDKN and ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability.

About Emily

You can read more about Dr Emily Boyd at her staff profile page.

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Dr Giuseppe Feola attended the 11th International Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics (ESEE), which was hosted by the University of Leeds on 30 June – 3 July 2015. The European Society for Ecological Economics brought together scientists across traditional disciplines, and explored solutions for the transformation to a sustainable society.

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Giuseppe made two presentations. In the first one, he reported results from a research project on institutional change and continuity of peasant communities in the Colombian Andes (project description here). This study increases our knowledge of peasant communities in this particular region, and adds to the body of scholarship that is refining our understanding of how institutions adapt and how culture changes in response to compounded climatic and economic disturbances. In the second contribution, Giuseppe presented a critical analysis of emerging concepts of societal transformation toward sustainability. This analysis provides structure to the scientific debate on transformation toward sustainability, and identifies two priorities for future research, namely to foster dialogue around the complementarities of different concepts, and to test different concepts empirically (full paper available here).

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You can read more about Giuseppe at his staff profile.

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An international team of scientists is calling for urgent and rigorous monitoring of temperature patterns in mountain regions after finding evidence that high elevations could be warming faster than previously thought.

The research team says that without substantially better information, we risk underestimating the severity of a number of already looming problems, including water shortages and the possible extinction of some alpine flora and fauna.

The research is published today in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Caucasus Mountains, Russia

Caucasus Mountains, Russia

Co-author Dr Maria Shahgedanova, University of Reading, said: “The evidence that mountains are warming faster than low elevations is growing but we still lack detailed information from both observations and models and, as a result, cannot reliably assess impact of the high-elevation warming. These can potentially affect not only high-altitude ecosystems but also water supply from snow and glacier ice and hazards associated with shrinking cryosphere which will impact population at lower elevations.

“To address the issue of elevation-dependent warming and its impacts, we need to employ a combination of automated ground-based measurement networks in different mountainous systems, high-resolution models and satellite imagery. Scientists from the University of Reading work on the development of all three components in the mountainous regions of Europe and Asia.”

The most striking evidence that mountain regions are warming more rapidly than surrounding regions comes from the Tibetan plateau. Here temperatures have risen steadily over the past 50 years and the rate of change is speeding up. But masked by this general climate warming are pronounced differences at different elevations. For example, over the past 20 years temperatures above 4,000 m have warmed nearly 75 per cent faster than temperatures in areas below 2,000 m.

The team of scientists came together as part of the Mountain Research Initiative, a mountain global change research effort funded by the Swiss National Foundation. The team includes scientists from the UK, US, Switzerland, Canada, Ecuador, Pakistan, China, Italy, Austria and Kazakhstan. Between them, they have studied data on mountain temperatures worldwide collected over the past 60-70 years.

Lead author, Dr Nick Pepin, of the University of Portsmouth said: “Most current predictions are based on incomplete and imperfect data, but if we are right and mountains are warming more rapidly than other environments, the social and economic consequences could be serious, and we could see much more dramatic changes much sooner than previously thought.”

Improved observations, satellite-based remote sensing and climate model simulations are all needed to gain a true picture of warming in mountain regions, the researchers say. Much of that requires international agreement and collaboration – and funding.

Among the reasons the researchers examined for faster rates of temperature increase in mountain regions are:

–          Loss of snow and ice, leading to more exposed land surface at high elevation warming up faster in the sun;

–          Increasing release of heat in the high atmosphere. A warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, which, when condensing as clouds at high elevation, releases more heat to the mountain environment;

–          Aerosol pollutants at low elevations, including haze, dust and smoke, reduces  warming at those elevations, thus increasing the difference in rates of warming between low and high elevations;

–          Dust and soot deposited on the surface at high elevations causes more incoming sunlight to be converted to heat;

–          The complex combination of any or all of the above factors in different regions and at different times of the year.

Records of weather patterns at high altitudes are ‘extremely sparse’, the researchers found. The density of weather stations above 4,500 m is roughly one-tenth that in areas below that elevation. Long-term data, crucial for detecting patterns, doesn’t yet exist above 5,000 m anywhere in the world. The longest observations above this elevation are 10 years on the summit of Kilimanjaro.

 

Read more about Dr Shahgedanova at her staff profile.

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Dr Chuks Okereke has had a flurry of good news recently, with recognition for the excellence of his research and confirmation of his impressive international reputation.

The United Nations opens the UN Climate Summit 2014 September 23, 2014 at the United Nations in New York.

Chuks explains, “The focus of my research is to explore how societies can best respond to climate change, which is now generally accepted as arguably one of the greatest challenges facing humankind. While recognizing the importance of science and technology in combating climate change, my research emphasises the social, ethical and political dimensions of climate governance. I am interested in understanding the climate strategies of various stakeholders (such as governments, businesses, cities and civil society organizations) and how these either enhance or inhibit the prospects for societal transformation in the response to climate change.

Moreover, because of huge asymmetries in both contributions to and impact of climate change across countries, my research explores options for combining climate governance with the reduction of global poverty and inequality. I guess it is the topicality of my research and the chances for real life impact that make the work I do so very interesting to both academics and practitioners.”

Climate Strategies Membership 

UN Climate Summit 2014 Photo credit: DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

UN Climate Summit 2014
Photo credit: DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

Chuks has recently been invited to join “Climate Strategies”, the most prestigious research organisation and network on climate policy in Europe.  The main focus of the group is to set, in collaboration with EU Commission and UK Research Councils, the long term agenda for research on EU and global climate policy.

Award Nomination

Chuks’ co-authored book Carbon governance, climate change and business transformation (Oxford: Routledge, 2015) has been nominated for an award by the British Sociological Association (BSA) as one of the three works that have extended “The frontiers of sociological climate change research”.

Funding for new project

Chuks has recently won funding from CDKN (DFID) for the project “Interactions between Industrial Policy and Green Economy in Africa“. The project is led by Professor Yacob Mulugetta at UCL . Chuks is a central partner and leader of the work package on ‘governance and political economy’. Other partners include the Ethiopian Development Research Institute (Ethiopia) and Quantum Global Research Lab (Switzerland).

The research period began in February and is planned to continue through to November 2016, with the total funding of the project over £370k.

 

Congratulations to Chuks on the exciting recognition! You can read more about his current projects and teaching at his staff profile.

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Geography students studying ‘Resilience for Sustainable Development’ had a change from their normal lecture format recently and instead played a game. This wasn’t just for fun though, as ‘serious gaming’ is becoming a popular way of sharing complex information with a range of potential users and giving them opportunity to discuss its use. The students played CAULDRON, a game developed by members of the ACE-Africa project (University of Reading (Parker, Cornforth and Boyd) and Oxford University) together with the Red Cross/ Red Crescent Climate Centre, who have lots of experience designing games to communicate climate information. This game was developed to present the science of extreme weather event attribution in an accessible way, and provide space for discussion about whether it could be used in climate policy.

CAULDRON stands for Climate Attribution Under Loss and Damage: Risking, Observing, Negotiating. This reflects the fact that loss and damage due to extreme weather events is occurring all over the world and people are taking an interest in whether this is due to climate change. Negotiations are also currently taking place to work out how to address this loss and damage under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The game gives players the chance to experience having to make decisions under uncertain climate risk, something many people have to do in reality every day. They also have to analyse changes in risk with only limited data and deal with the difficulties of negotiating with other players with different interests.

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The game began with players given the role of farmers who had to plant crops each season. They were each given beans to symbolise their crops and a ‘rainmaker’, which was a small pot containing a dice, to shake to determine their rainfall each season. Players who had good rains gained more beans, while those with drought years lost beans. Some players ended up in crisis with too few beans to be able to plant, so had to try and strike up deals with fellow players to be lent beans so they could keep playing!

Climate change can affect the probabilities of extreme weather events occurring, so for the next part of the game players were given new rainmakers. Some of these contained dice with increased probability of drought which would ruin crops, but players didn’t know which! Suddenly, there seemed to be more droughts happening and more players getting into crisis.

Players try to figure out their best farming strategy

Players try to figure out their best farming strategy

For the next part of the game, players became scientists. Using new rainmakers as ‘climate models’, they produced more statistics to help them work out whether their risk of drought had been altered by climate change. How trustworthy were the results provided by their models though?

Players became negotiators at the UN climate negotiations for the final part of the game. They had to work out how they were going to deal with the fact that some players had collected more beans than others. Some players had been acting as developed countries and so, along with fewer losses, they had greater historical emissions. Were they to blame for losses in the developing countries? After much debate, each group managed to come up with an agreement that all players were happy to sign. However, some players did say they felt they had been bullied into making agreements and noted that the develop countries were denying that climate change had happened at all! Solutions presented to address the loss and damage at the end of the game included clearance of debts that had accumulated between players, rules on farming strategies that would be used in the future, and agreements on transfer of beans for when players got into crisis. With such a range of ideas diplomatically expressed, maybe we have uncovered some of the negotiators of the future!

A spokesperson reads out his region's signed agreement to address loss and damage

A spokesperson reads out his region’s signed agreement to address loss and damage

 

By the end of the game, all the players said their knowledge of extreme event attribution had been improved. One player said their understanding had been improved ‘by creating a situation where extreme events had ‘real’ consequences and a political ‘reality’’. This is the key feature of participatory gaming, that players can experience the emotions involved and have to act under uncertainty rather than just learning about it theoretically. Furthermore, it provides insights into the challenges of climate negotiations and the inequality between developing and developed countries, along with the difficulties in separating the impacts of climate change from other factors.

This has been just one of the many times the CAULDRON game has been played, which have included players from sectors ranging from climate science to civil society. Each time the game has prompted lively discussion about event attribution science and dealing with the impacts of climate change and demonstrated that ‘serious gaming’ can be an effective, but also fun, way of sharing climate research.

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Professor Emily Boyd and Dr Chuks Okereke have contributed chapters to a new book, ‘Successful Adaption to Climate Change – Linking Science and Policy in a Rapidly Changing World’ which has been awarded ‘Outstanding Academic Title of 2014’ by Choice Review.
The Award
Choice Review: Outstanding Academic Title of 2014 Successful Adaptation to Climate Change Linking Science and Policy in a Rapidly Changing World, Routledge edited by Susanne C. Moser and Maxwell T Boykoff.  The Choice Review identifies the best scholarly titles and abstracts, in 2014 featuring 690 titles in 54 disciplines and subsections. Emily Boyd is lead author on Chapter 12 ‘Building Climate Resilience: Lessons of Early Warning in Africa’. Chuks Okereke is co-author on Chapter 5 ‘REDD+ and Social Justice: Adaptation by Way of Mitigation?’
The Book
The book Successful Adaptation is described as follows: “This is a thoughtful and thought-provoking volume, with surprising insights. Of the many books on climate change, this one really hits on the essentials of “What are we going to do about it?” and “Why haven’t we done anything yet?” It focuses primarily on issues in the social science arena, addressing adaption to climate change and how societies and policy makers are wrestling with what to do about ecological issues, but also the societal hurdles and reasons why, for the foreseeable future, not much is probably going to happen. The compendium of articles covers such topics as social justice and adaption, trade-offs in maintaining (or not maintaining) biodiversity, media representations of climate adaptation, risk reduction, baseline assessment, and what some societies and countries are already doing to adapt to a changing climate. This work will make readers think and realize that although addressing climate change is complicated, achieving workable solutions is even more complicated. Well-written and engaging reading for both social and physical scientists working on or interested in climate change or associated issues. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals/practitioners; general audiences. –B. Ransom, formerly, University of California, San Diego
 

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