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Climate change poses seemingly insurmountable obstacles for the human species, not to mention all other species on the planet. It is not the only environmental pressure that humans are putting on planet Earth, but seems to be intricately tied to all others including the shrinking availability of natural resources necessary for survival.

Whatever you may think of TED, these talks help define the climate conundrum people are in at the moment and speak about ways of cultivating resilience by preparing for environmental change, such as extreme weather events.

The speakers talk about climate change in terms of ecological systems as well as personal impacts to homes and livelihoods. Relating the big picture of ongoing environmental disasters like climate change to the small, individual lives of communities seems one of the best ways to communicate its impacts and to encourage people to ready themselves for when they occur.

resilienceA new policy and practice note that disseminates findings from the BIOPICCC project was published by the Living with Environmental Change (LWEC) research partnership and is now available online.

The brief authored by Executive Director of IHRR Professor Sarah Curtis, Dr Jonathan Wistow and Dr Val Dimitri, ‘Ensuring resilience in care for older people’, provides guidance for care services for older people to ensure the resilience of their infrastructures and systems to withstand future impacts of climate change. Read the rest of this entry »

Australia has experienced severe heatwaves recently with temperatures reaching over 40C (104F). 2013 is currently the hottest year on record, but if trends continue 2014 could be not far behind.

The extreme heat has led to fire alerts throughout the country making people evacuate some areas. According to the BBC, lightning strikes in Victoria caused more than 250 fires on Tuesday night alone. Some matches at the Australian Open have come to a halt due to the heat wave, with some players suffering serious health effects from the intense heat. This year parts of Queensland and New South Wales have set new heat records.

This is a satellite image of land surface temperature in Australia taken by NASA’s MODIS satellite:

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20th January 2014, 13:00 to 14:00, CLC 203, Calman Learning Centre, Professor David Held, Director, Institute of Global Policy, Durham University


Growing interdependence requires greater global cooperation, but across a range of issues multilateral policy making seems to have stalled. I argue that this growing gap between the need for global governance and the ability of intergovernmental institutions to provide it must be understood as a general and conjunctural state of the multilateral order, which I term ‘gridlock’. The causes of gridlock are diverse – rising multipolarity, institutional inertia, harder problems, increased complexity – but can be found across a range of global issue areas. Importantly, these drivers are, in part, products of previous, successful cooperation over the postwar period, and can therefore be understood as ‘second-order’ cooperation problems. I argue that a process of self-reinforcing interdependence has altered the nature of global politics over the past decades, and has therefore in part undermined the ability of multilateral institutions to sustain the very interdependence they have helped to create. The seminar will discuss this argument in the context of global environmental cooperation and the limits of its achievements. Read the rest of this entry »


For those of you who may not have come across the latest Tipping Points Annual Report yet, it provides the latest updates from the project. Tipping Points is now entering its fourth year of interdisciplinary research in climate change, the global financial crisis, mathematical tipping points and the tipping point metaphor itself.

Since the project started in summer 2010 it has questioned the fundamental understanding of tipping points in nature and society and has thus far produced a large body of work, with more publications to be uploaded to its website in the near future. This report includes field updates from paleoclimate research in the Arctic, historical bank failures in Britain, health tipping points and the agency of language.

Tipping Points Annual Report 2012-13

Dr Andrew Baldwin, a Co-Director of IHRR, is Chair of a major multidisciplinary project at Durham University on climate change migration called COST Action 11011 Climate change and migration: knowledge, law and policy and theory.  COST Action 11011 is studying the many facets of climate change migration from a legal, political and theoretical perspective. In this interview Andrew explains the racial context of climate change migration and how migration is part of a strategy for adaptation.

What is a climate change migrant?

The obvious answer is that there is no way of identifying a climate change migrant or at least that’s what the existing literature tells us. The most common explanation is that migration is a complex phenomenon.

People migrate for all sorts of different reasons and several reasons at once, so to isolate climate as a determining variable is impossible. You can’t disaggregate climate change from all the other variables that explain why an individual migrates.

Similarly you could say, ‘well, this particular climatic event displaced x number of people’, but then to attribute the event itself to climate change is obviously problematic. That further affects our ability to identify whether someone is a climate migrant.

climate migrant camp

‘Climate Migrant Camp’ in Hanover, Germany by artist Hermann Josef Hack.

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4th October 2013, 14:00 to 15:00, Seminar Room 010, Dept of Geography, Dr Md. Nadiruzzaman, United Nations University (MRF-UNU) Project

Population movements following an environmental stress can be a huge development challenge if we do not know where people are going and at what number. Without knowledge of the locations of affected people, relief assistance is compromised. No rapid and accurate method exists to track population movements after disasters. This research learns lessons from Haiti and plans to use CDR (call data record) from the Grameen Phone, the largest cellphone operator in Bangladesh, to estimate the magnitude and trends of population movements following the Cyclone Mohasen, which swept across Bangladesh on the 20th May 2013.

Geographic positions of SIM cards were determined by the location of the mobile phone tower through which each SIM card connects when calling. We will follow daily positions of SIM cards for Barisal and Chittagang Division from 01 April to 30 June of 2013. To exclude inactivated SIM cards, we will include SIM cards that made at least one call during the time of our study. Results from the Haiti study suggest that estimates of population movements during disasters and outbreaks can be delivered rapidly and with potentially high validity in areas with high mobile phone use. This research would offer new ways to understand population movements and climate change threshold.

Over the past summer regions of China have also experienced intense heat waves with eastern China setting a record of 40.8 C (105.4 F).  Russia (Northern Siberia) has also had harsh rises in temperature over the summer.  In China, cities such as Shanghai were particularly vulnerable.  These images taken from the NASA Earth Observatory show the concentrations of the heat wave in different parts of China.

china heat wave

temp bar

NASA Earth Observatory

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Photographer James Balog shoots in Ilulissat Bay, Greenland, March 2008.

Photographer James Balog shoots in Ilulissat Bay, Greenland, March 2008. From the film Chasing Ice.

The ground breaking film Chasing Ice is now widely available online, on DVD, in cinemas and on TV.  In fact, quite a few screenings are scheduled in the UK this autumn. It is also possible for education institutions to host a screening of this amazing film.  It is really a film that should be seen on the big screen, but at the same time those who see it should think carefully about what it portrays so elegantly. The disappearance of the Earth’s glaciers in the Arctic has large implications for how it will affect the future of human societies, not to mention the ecosystems we depend on for survival. Read the rest of this entry »


Percentage increase in the number of heat wave events per year between baseline (1961-1990) and 2030s.  (Data derived from the UKCP09 Weather Generator
(Version 2) under the medium Co2 emissions scenario). BIOPICCC

This summer has in some cases tested the limits of the UK’s ability to endure extreme weather in the form of heat waves.  This will also likely also be a pressing issue for the short and long-term future.  A recent study published in Environment Research Letters predicts that unusually, extreme hot weather events experienced throughout the world will increase in extent and frequency.  WMO (World Meteorological Organisation) have reported on the rise in extreme weather and global temperature and have made similar predictions.  According to the research, five percent of the land area of Earth has experienced heat extremes far beyond the norm for summer.  Researchers note in the study that while certain areas of the world have received the most press coverage of heat wave events, the strongest increase in heat extremes is in the tropics when compared with historic variability.  The Mediterranean has also had a strong increase in climate extremes recently. Read the rest of this entry »

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