Tag Archives: climate change adaptation

How landscape managers think about local landscapes influences their approaches to climate change adaptation

By Vera Köpsel, Cormac Walsh and Catherine Leyshon 


A sign warning visitors of coastal erosion at the protected landscape of Godrevy in Cornwall (UK) – Source: © Vera Köpsel 2016

Climate change is likely to alter the appearance of many rural and coastal landscapes, for example through extreme weather, river flooding or cliff erosion . A prominent example of such impacts, often connected to climate change, was the 2013/14 winter floods in the southwest of England . Inasmuch as the climate is changing, so are our responses to its impacts as we try to both adapt to new conditions and reduce future change through mitigation.

A suitable example for researching the connections between perceptions of landscape and place, and adaptation to climate change, is Cornwall in southwest England. Many of the region’s famous landscapes are under special designations such as the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) or the properties of the National Trust. As a peninsula stretching into the Atlantic Ocean, moreover, Cornwall is already experiencing an increase in extreme weather events, storminess, as well as river and sea flooding.

Cornwall’s coastal and rural areas are valued places of everyday life and cultural heritage. They are filled with personal attachments but coastal and rural areas are sometimes valued very differently by different groups within a society. This includes the staff of organisations responsible for managing these iconic landscapes (e.g. the National Trust, Natural England, the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and Cornwall Council) who bring different priorities and perspectives to their work. These subjective perceptions of places remain largely under-researched when it comes to understanding the dynamics that shape climate change adaptation processes. In our new paper, published in The Geographical Journal, we explored the different perceptions of Cornwall’s landscapes held by local landscape managers who are faced with dealing with the impacts of our changing climate. We asked how these perceptions influence their climate adaptation approaches.

The theoretical approach of our study was that of constructivist landscape research, a concept rooted deeply in human geography and focusing on subjective and collective perceptions of landscapes. By conducting qualitative interviews with local staff of organizations such as the National Trust, the AONB Partnership, Natural England and Cornwall Council, we uncovered four different narratives – in other words, storylines – about what Cornwall’s landscapes are, how they are affected by climate change, and how one should adapt to these changes. These four narratives conceptualise the Cornish landscapes as:

  • the region’s basis for economic growth
  • an intermediate result of an ongoing human-environment relationship
  • a mosaic of wildlife and habitats;
  • and a space for production, e.g. of agricultural goods.

By identifying these different narratives, we show that although superficially often understood as one and the same thing, the concept of landscape means very different things to different actors concerned with its management. These varying understandings of the landscapes have direct implications for how they should be managed in the context of a changing climate: from preserving the status quo and rejecting any built interventions through a focus on community-led action, to a call for hard engineering – different constructions of landscapes result in potentially conflicting demands for adaptation measures in Cornwall. Understanding which landscape perceptions underlie such differing approaches to adaptation becomes especially important when the adaptation activities of one group negatively impact on what another group values about a landscape.

Leaving unarticulated the taken-for-granted constructions that landscape management actors have of their local landscapes holds great potential for misunderstandings and can present an obstacle to sustainable climate adaptation. As climate change adaptation is a societal challenge which demands the transdisciplinary cooperation of many different organizations and actors on the local level, our research makes an important contribution to furthering constructive dialogue about how to adapt landscapes and places to the impacts of a changing climate. With ever greater emphasis on multi-agency working to achieve climate change adaptation in landscape management, it is important that future research investigates the diverse perceptions people have of the places they manage, to secure effective action at the local level.

About the author: Vera Köpsel and Cormac Walsh are both research associates at the University of Hamburg. Catherine Leyshon is Professor of Human Geography at the Univesity of Exeter. 

60-world2 Carrington D 2016 Study reveals huge acceleration in erosion of England’s white cliffsThe Guardian 7 November 2016.

60-world2 Herald Express 2016 South Devon beaches have ‘not recovered’ after ferocious storms of 2014. 27 Nov 2016.

books_icon Köpsel, V., Walsh, C. and Leyshon, C. 2016 Landscape narratives in practice: implications for climate change adaptation. Geogr J. doi:10.1111/geoj.12203

books_icon Radford T 2016 Stronger storms coming to Europe’s Atlantic seaboard The Ecologist 8 April 2016

60-world2 Vaughan A 2014 England and Wales hit by wettest winter in nearly 250 years The Guardian 27 February 2014. 


Climate change: adaptation, science, and the media

By Joseph J. Bailey,  University of Nottingham, UK.

One is never short of media coverage on climate change, but there has been a flurry recently in relation to its purported role in the ‘sinking’ of several islands in the Solomon Islands, following a publication by Australian researchers (Albert et al., 2016). Dramatic headlines included: “Five Pacific islands lost to rising seas as climate change hits” (The Guardian, 2016a) and “After the Pacific Ocean swallows villages and five Solomon Islands, a study blames climate change” (The Washington Post, 2016), to list just two. Such headlines would lead anyone to think that climate change had solely caused the sea levels to rise and destroy these islands and, therefore, that climate change sank the islands. Perhaps not, though.

The Guardian was quick to release a subsequent article: “Headlines ‘exaggerated’ climate link to sinking of Pacific islands” (The Guardian, 2016b) after they spoke to the paper’s lead author, who identified that many headlines were “certainly pushing things a bit towards the ‘climate change has made islands vanish’ angle”. The Solomon Islands’ sea level rise is above average because of a range of factors, including natural climatic cycles and increases in the strength of the trade winds. These changes are operating alongside global warming which does indeed increase average global sea levels but also increases the intensity of these trade winds, as outlined in the article. It is a complicated climatic system that has been simplified and widely misrepresented in the media to varying extents.

Taking the line ashore. A villager in his canoe takes the line ashore at Halavo, Nggela (Florida) Island, Solomon Islands. Source: This photograph, which has not been edited, was taken by Jenny Scott and downloaded from Flickr (link to photograph) for non-commercial use on this blog under a Creative Commons 2.0 License.

Interestingly, all of this happened about one week after Lord Krebs wrote an article for The Conversation about media responsibility in reporting climate change, and the need for scientists to engage with the media to support more accurate reporting (Krebs, 2016). The issues discussed and articles referenced by Lord Krebs are potentially of a more serious nature than the case of sea level rise affecting the Solomon Islands. However, despite differences in the seriousness of the misrepresentation and simplification of the science between Lord Krebs’ examples and the more recent reports surrounding the Solomon Islands, there is overlap in the associated issues and questions raised. Namely: how can the public and politicians fully understand the science and respond to it in the face of inaccurate and pervasive media reports? Furthermore, if people are not clear on the science of climate change, how does this affect our resilience and willingness to adapt to probable changes in the future?

A recent article in Geography Compass explores climate change adaptation in much detail (Eisenhauer, 2016). Climate change adaptation describes the process whereby people seek to decrease the risks and impacts of climate change through societal and economic strategies, for example (details). The paper focusses on pathways, which describe “alternative trajectories of development” (p. 209), in the context of climate change adaptation because such adaptations are part of continual change towards desirable socio-ecological conditions. Four approaches to pathways are proposed and discussed. They aim to fill the current gap between usable knowledge and action that the paper identifies. In particular, these actions generally relate to governance or development. The importance of local people in adaptation planning is also highlighted.

Discussion of this gap between usable knowledge and action, and attempts to address it, is important because the creation of knowledge is one thing, but identifying which aspects of it are of the greatest relevance and usefulness for the task at hand is another. Subsequent dissemination to stakeholders must then follow, and is it here that the media has great potential. But, as we have seen time and time again, including only this month, knowledge can be misrepresented or simplified to the point where it is no longer presents what the authors intended. Some simplification is necessary to create readable news articles and, as the lead author of the Solomon Islands paper, Dr Simon Albert, told The Guardian, ‘dramatic’,  eye-catching headlines can attract readers and raise the profile of important issues. However, caution is required and a balance between a headline’s accuracy and ability to draw in readers must be struck.

Climate change is one of the most geographical issues, covering all aspects of the human, natural, and physical world, and the connections and interactions therein. The ability of communities to adapt will play a large role in determining its impacts in the future. It is vital that scientific findings are made to be usable and relevant for policy-makers and stakeholders so that effective strategies can be instigated. We have seen here the presentation of science and of geographic phenomena in the media can be inappropriate at times. This makes it difficult for people to be properly informed and make sound decisions about climate-related environmental changes. Additionally, the Solomon Islands coverage should be used as a cautionary example that not all environmental changes are because of climate change: the world is complicated. Communication between scientists and the media and, subsequently, between the media and observers to disseminate accurate and useful knowledge will no doubt be a key ingredient in the initiation of positive action.



Albert, S. et al. (2016). Interactions between sea-level rise and wave exposure on reef island dynamics in the Solomon Islands. Environmental Research Letters, 11 (5).

Eisenhauer, D. C. (2016). Pathways to Climate Change Adaptation: Making Climate Change Action Political. Geography Compass, 10 (5), 207 – 221.

Krebs, J. (2016). Lord Krebs: scientists must challenge poor media reporting on climate change (online). The Conversation. Available at: https://theconversation.com/lord-krebs-scientists-must-challenge-poor-media-reporting-on-climate-change-58621 (last accessed 12th May 2016).

The Guardian (2016a). Five Pacific islands lost to rising seas as climate change hits (online). Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/10/five-pacific-islands-lost-rising-seas-climate-change (last accessed 12th May 2016).

The Guardian (2016b). Headlines ‘exaggerated’ climate link to sinking of Pacific islands (online). Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/10/headlines-exaggerated-climate-link-to-sinking-of-pacific-islands (last accessed 12th May 2016).

The Washington Post (2016). After the Pacific Ocean swallows villages and five Solomon Islands, a study blames climate change (online). Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/05/09/after-the-pacific-ocean-swallows-villages-and-five-solomon-islands-a-study-blames-climate-change/ (last accessed 12th May 2016).

Reconciling humans and nature through ‘green infrastructure’

By Joseph Bailey, University of Nottingham, UK.

The Los Angeles River, and its iconic concrete channels, made the BBC news last week following discussions of a ‘greener’ LA River catchment by researchers at the American Geophysics Union (AGU) Fall Meeting in San Francisco. The idea of ‘green infrastructure’ (or ‘blue-green infrastructure’) is proliferating internationally and essentially aims to reconcile humans and nature in urban and suburban settings, as opposed to employing previously favoured ‘hard engineering’ (i.e building man-made structures) strategies against flooding and other environmental threats. Green infrastructure initiatives have already begun on certain stretches of the LA River (e.g. see this National Geographic article from July 2014), however, this recent BBC article focusses on the complexities of such strategies.

The present concrete channels are vital in protecting Los Angeles from flood events by rapidly moving water away from the city and its residents, as outlined by one of the scientists interviewed in the article. This same scientist also notes that redesigning such a huge structure in the middle of a highly densely populated area is very difficult if the primary function to prevent flooding is to be maintained into the future as storms become more intense under climate change.

About a month prior to the focal news story of this article on the LA River, there was another story discussing droughts in the wider California area, with reservoirs and ground water supplies running dry as the state endures its third year of drought. This may sound like a wholly separate issue to flooding but a more integrative environmental management agenda implementing green infrastructure can contribute towards a host of environmental management foci, not just flood prevention. Indeed, one option discussed in the LA River article is to capture more water by creating a greater number of catchment basins to replenish groundwater supplies. However, this would ‘almost certainly’ necessitate moving people, homes and businesses, thus proving costly.

Here in the United Kingdom, Jones and Somper (2014) discuss integration of green infrastructure in London, highlighting the importance of collaboration between businesses, government and local communities and of making the socio-economic advantages of such infrastructure clear to investors. Jones and Somper provide examples of such collaboration, including Camden Council, who are actively encouraging the community to engage with ‘green issues’. Of course, expert opinion from geographers and others also has a large part to play alongside such collaborations. Indeed, research within the green infrastructure theme is thriving. For example, the Blue-Green Cities project emphasises the potential of such green strategies to provide resilience to flooding through adaptive management.

Overall then, green infrastructure seems to be able to offer much towards protecting people from environmental threats both now and into the future, while also encouraging a more harmonious relationship between people and nature in presently unnatural urban areas. If the known complexities of green infrastructure can be overcome to produce environmental solutions that make for a better future for both nature and humans (both practically and aesthetically), then this should surely be encouraged.


books_icon Jones, S. & Somper, C. (2014). The role of green infrastructure in climate change adaptation in London. The Geographical Journal, 180 (2), 191–196.

Climate Change Adapatation: Greening Urban Environments

by Fiona Ferbrache


Examples of green infrastructure from an exhibition entitled ‘La Ville Fertile’ (Gaillac, 2012)

What happened to your Christmas tree at the end of December?  Did you recycle wrapping paper and Christmas cards?  Perhaps you experienced some flooding from the severe weather during the festive season?  This post explores environmental and climate change adaptation strategies – namely green infrastructure – but first a light-hearted piece of research with a festive theme.

In December, academics from Leeds University calculated Santa’s carbon footprint if he successfully delivered stockings to 7.7 million UK homes.  Travelling roughly 1.5 million km, Santa’s carbon footprint would be equivalent to 9 tonnes per stocking (UK annual CO2 emissions are roughly 7 tonnes per person).  Exploring less costly ways of delivering Christmas gifts, the scientists calculated that stockings arriving from China by container ship, and then to one’s home by van, would result in lower CO2 emissions at 800 grams per stocking.Xmas sack0001

We are asked to take environmental and climate change seriously, not least because without adequate adaptation, lives and landscapes may be put at risk.  This point is made by Jones and Somper in an Early View article exploring how climate change adaptations in London are being integrated into the landscape.  Their focus is on green infrastructure: “natural or semi-natural networks of green (soil-covered or vegetated) and blue (water-covered) spaces and corridors that maintain and enhance ecosystem services” (p.1), and how such spaces can be encouraged and used more effectively (e.g. the Green Roofs Scheme).  Jones and Somper present some examples of existing measures towards green infrastructure in the capital, and also make three key recommendations for policymakers, highlighting, among them, the need for stronger planning initiatives to turn ideals into standard practice.

Next time you visit London, you might observe what measures have been taken towards furthering green infrastructure, and consider whether such strategies might be successful in your own hometown.

60-world2  Greening Roofs and Walls in LondonGreater London Authority

books_icon  Jones, S. & Somper, C. 2013 The role of green infrastructure in climate change adaptation in London. The Geographical Journal. DOI: 10.1111/geoj.12059

60-world2  Santa’s EmissionsUnited Bank of Carbon

60-world2  “Are We Whistling in the Wind?”, Turner, B. 2012 Geography Directions 19 October


Bricks, Mortar and Bricolage: an Economic Geographer’s Take on the Stumbling Blocks of Knowledge Transfer in the Built Environment Industry

by Briony Turner

Lucas Cranach the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Tree of Knowledge

If you can get past the academic jargon, there’s an interesting article on knowledge transfer of green building design by James Faulconbridge in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers.  Perhaps the reason it’s interesting in a practitioner sense, is that it is based on actual professional practice –it draws not only upon other academic reflections, but also on those of 25 current British/Australian industry professionals.

The paper says it aims to suggest a framework for geographical analysis of attempts at mobilising green design knowledge.  However, it misses a trick, in that it raises some salient and relevant points for industry with regard to the stumbling blocks of transferring innovative design and best practice into action.  For those in the built environment industry it will come as no surprise that application of this framework, i.e.. the paper’s conclusion, reveals that knowledge is situated and place-specific and that solutions need to incorporate bricolage within knowledge assembly and transfer.

The author makes reference to blockage of attempts to reduce environmental impact being in part due to the lack of recognition of the “benefits of collective learning and the sharing of green design knowledges” -whilst this paper is not country specific, for the UK this is not necessarily the case.  The stumbling block quite often, as pointed out later in the paper, is the institutional context, particularly time, importance and resource allocated to the processes of knowledge mobility.  Much new knowledge, often termed within industry ‘best practice’ (even when its more-often-than-not actually innovative practice), is freely available, but hearing about it, knowing where to find it and having time to digest it and work out how to adapt current practice to incorporate it, are part of the daily struggle of most bought-in, already interested practitioners.  For those that aren’t (the greater challenge when it comes to step-change within professional practice) other/additional knowledge mobility tactics may well be required.

Many professionals use conferences as a means of staying up to date, the odd lucky few get to go on study tours as mentioned in the paper.  However, in these austere times, ability, both in terms of time away from the desk and cost, for the majority, is hampered.  Cracking how to enable effective knowledge transfer within current regime constraints is certainly a challenge worthy of uptake here in the UK.

The paper also suggests that economic geographers can contribute to debates about transitions to sustainability and building design via institutional analyses of knowledge mobility.  Hopefully they will, but perhaps in more accessible language, to ensure their own knowledge contributions aren’t rendered ‘situated’ within academia.  It would be wonderful to see the recommendations within this paper in plain English, in trade press such as the RIBA Journal, Inside Housing, Building, Eco Building, Green Building etc.

Now, a brief, but I hope the reader will agree, salient semantic foray into a few of the terms being used.  Focus of academic and industry efforts must not get tied to purely a focus on ‘green design’ as commonly perceived and, in fact, as reflected in this paper’s definition, as “negative environmental impact mitigating” design, but instead should ensure that focus includes the social aspect, i.e. not simply the wider community/society, but the people, the inhabitant(s), aspect of homes.  Homes should be fit for habitation now and in the future, i.e. resilient/enable their inhabitants to be resilient to current and future climatic projections.

Along these same lines, industry needs to assign more importance on the incorporation of domestic function as well as to form and fabric into thinking on green/sustainable design.  Whilst at present there is increasing focus on energy efficiency behaviour of inhabitants (pause here for a wry smile on reading the title of the National Housing Federation’s recent launch event of their “Count us in” report on this, aptly named Don’t forget the people”), the internal environment of homes and health of inhabitants receive less attention, yet are, as, if not more, important – certainly important for those landlords aware of the housing health and safety rating system

Furthermore, sustainable design/green design that tackles both mitigation of carbon emissions from residential stock and adaptation of stock to projected changes in climate is not confined to new build.  These are design issues as relevant to new build as to existing housing stock.  For more information on this, take a look at the useful, clearly set out, easy to read “Design for Future Climate” report produced by the Technology Strategy Board, and for those wanting facts and figures on overheating in particular, take a look at the Department for Communities and Local Government’s recent gap analysis and literature review, which formed part of their investigation into the overheating of homes – their recommendations are also worth a read.

If you’re struggling to connect why excessively cold and overheating homes are design problems, take a look at the Heatwave Plan and the Cold Weather Plan for England 2012, short documents both published by the NHS whose recommendations include factors relating to the built environment.  The NHS picks up the pieces of this current neglect of thinking about the internal environment and domestic life within homes.  Its staff know all too well the contribution of poor housing stock to the medical and death toll during periods of climatic extremes, projected to become increasingly more frequent over the coming years.  Speaking of the NHS, there is an intriguing piece of research underway called SHOCK (not) HORROR which is capturing the highly refined and evolved efficient knowledge transfer processes within A&E wards for help in improving infrastructure resilience. Watch this space…

books_iconJames Faulconbridge, 2012, Mobile ‘green’ design knowledge: institutions, bricolage and the relational production of embedded sustainable building designs, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00523.x

globe42Count us in”, National Housing Federation

globe42Cold Weather Plan for England 2012, National Health Service

globe42Design for Future Climate, Technology Strategy Board

globe42Heatwave Plan for England 2012, National Health Service

globe42Investigation into overheating in homes: analysis of gaps and recommendations, Department for  Communities and Local Government

globe42Investigation into overheating in homes: literature review, Department for Communities and Local Government

RGS-IBG New Content Alert: Early View Articles (16th June 2012)

The following Early View articles are now available on Wiley Online Library.

Original Articles

Visualising postcode data for urban analysis and planning: the Amsterdam City Monitor
Karin Pfeffer, Marinus C Deurloo and Els M Veldhuizen
Article first published online: 28 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01096.x

Changing countries, changing climates: achieving thermal comfort through adaptation in everyday activities
Sara Fuller and Harriet Bulkeley
Article first published online: 28 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01105.x

Rethinking community and public space from the margins: a study of community libraries in Bangalore’s slums
Ajit K Pyati and Ahmad M Kamal
Article first published online: 25 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01100.x

Practising workplace geographies: embodied labour as method in human geography
Chris McMorran
Article first published online: 25 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01101.x

Original Articles

Muslim geographies, violence and the antinomies of community in eastern Sri Lanka
Shahul Hasbullah and Benedikt Korf
Article first published online: 11 JUN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2012.00470.x

Characterising urban sprawl on a local scale with accessibility measures
Jungyul Sohn, Songhyun Choi, Rebecca Lewis and Gerrit Knaap
Article first published online: 29 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2012.00468.x

The geodemographics of access and participation in Geography
Alex D Singleton
Article first published online: 29 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2012.00467.x

Original Articles

Towards geographies of ‘alternative’ education: a case study of UK home schooling families
Peter Kraftl
Article first published online: 8 JUN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00536.x

Boundary Crossings

Geographies of environmental restoration: a human geography critique of restored nature
Laura Smith
Article first published online: 8 JUN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00537.x

A policymaker’s puzzle, or how to cross the boundary from agent-based model to land-use policymaking?
Nick Green
Article first published online: 25 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00532.x