Research

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Mike Simmonds (PhD candidate) and Dr Nick Branch attended a national conference organised by the Surrey Wildlife Trust – “11th National Heathland Conference”. The conference brings together practitioners engaged in heathland conservation and management at a national level including SWT, Natural England, National Trust, Forest Research, and Borough and County Councils.

photoNick chaired a workshop at the conference on “working with academia”, which included speakers from Imperial College (Silwood Park) and Mike. The aim was to share experiences about the working relationship between heathland managers and Universities (e.g. ecologists, geographers, environmental scientists, archaeologists), and to discuss how this relationship can be improved through co-production of research projects, and better communication of data.

 

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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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Peter McManners low resDoctoral researcher Peter McManners has had his paper ‘Reframing Economic Policy Towards Sustainability’ published in the International Journal of Green Economics. This reports conceptual research at the interface between macroeconomic and environmental policy, applying the concepts of sustainability and resilience. A key observation is that the dialogue about sustainability over recent decades has failed to reduce the threat that human activities pose to the global ecosystem.

Peter proposes that the time has come to question deep-rooted assumptions, including the role of economics. In this paper, priorities are re-examined and principles developed to be able to build a sustainable economy. It is argued that sustainability economics is subservient to society’s higher objectives and is about control and balance, rather than laissez-faire free markets. A new definition and conceptual model for sustainability is proposed that is closer to reality than the traditional models having cornerstones of ‘culture’, ‘land’, ‘population’ and ‘energy’. Using this model allows economic policy to be repositioned in support of the needs of society and compliant with effective stewardship of the ecosystem to deliver a resilient economy operating within planetary limits.

Peter McManners is a doctoral researcher in his third year supervised by Emily Boyd and Steve Musson.

McManners, P.J. (2014) Reframing Economic Policy Towards Sustainability, International Journal of Green Economics, Vol. 8, Nos. 3/4, pp 288-305.

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NERC H ClokeCongratulations to Hannah Cloke, who has won another prestigious award for her high impact research and media engagement.  Hannah has been awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Public Communications Prize, which she will receive at the meeting of the University Court next month.

The prize is in recognition of Hannah’s work during the flooding crisis, with high profile appearances in the national and international media which led to a secondment to Government to advise Downing Street on the ongoing crisis.

To find out more about Hannah’s work, check out her staff profile and follow her on Twitter.

 

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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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Congratulations to Aroa Garcia-Suarez (PhD student in Archaeology) and Izabela Stacewicz (PhD student in GES), who have made successful applications to the first annual Rob Potter Memorial Overseas Travel Award.  Both Aroa and Izabela have each been awarded £500 towards overseas fieldwork in 2014/2015.

Izabela Stacewicz

Izabela Stacewicz

“I am delighted to have received the Rob Potter Memorial Travel Award for Overseas Fieldwork, and I am most grateful to the Committee for supporting my work.  My PhD project explores the politics and effectiveness of Social Impact Assessment in addressing land and labour rights in the context of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.  The Award will contribute to fieldwork in Malaysia and Indonesia in Spring 2015, during which I will conduct research with palm oil plantation workers, and communities affected by palm oil production.”

Izabela Stacewicz

“This award represents a great aid to carry out fieldwork related to my doctoral project and will be used to cover travel costs to and from Turkey in order to finalise the excavation and sampling of an archaeologically significant Neolithic building at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Çatalhöyük.”

Aroa Garcia-Suarez

This is the first year of this award made in honour of the former Head of School, Professor Emeritus Rob Potter (1950 – 2014).  For more information about Rob’s academic achievements, and details on the application process for the Overseas Travel Award, please visit the webpage.

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