Draft call for papers for the 3rd Open GSS Conference, Theme Climate Change and Natural Disaster

Climate Change and Natural Disaster


Climate change and natural disasters is a widely researched area nevertheless, current research needs to be complemented by governance and actor oriented research. The bulk of research in these fields has been oriented towards assessing the biophysical risks climate change and natural hazards are posing. This needs to be complemented with research oriented towards providing solutions that can be put into practice. Win-win strategies are needed, which also provide short term benefits together with long term benefits of reducing climate risks, as these are more likely to be taken up by policy and implementation. We also need to understand under which condition learning from disasters occurs. There is a wide spectrum of community responses to natural hazards, ranging from a clear capacity for self-organization to complete inaction – from resilience to passivity. It is clear that cultural and social variables have a lot to do with the perception of risk, which in turn influences how communities and administrations deal with natural disasters. While there is research in this area there is still much to be done in the field to better understand and improve the dynamics of community and risk governance relations.


Global system science opens up new avenues for solution-oriented research on climate change and disaster risk. The consequences of major disasters are felt around the globe wither by directly influencing global supply chains or by influencing discourse and possibly action throughout the world. The nuclear disaster of Fukushima, for example, has played a major role in Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear energy.


Theme 1: Learning from disasters (or disasters as opportunities)

Traditional societies often have developed a culture to live with risks and disasters. Modern societies have this ability only to some extent and/or are not able to learn from past disasters. There may be many reasons for this including bureaucracy, vested interests and fragmented responsibilities between vulnerable people and decision making. In this context we invite papers that address the following research questions:

  • Which cultural, social and institutional factors influence a societies ability to learn from disasters?
  • Which governance structure are more effective in taking on lessons learnt? Which factors hinder the application of lessons learnt?
  • Under which conditions do people manage to self-organize to reduce risks?
  • How can we scale-up lessons learnt?


Theme 2: Narratives of risks and opportunities

This session invites papers that strive to understand the rather diffuse narratives of natural disaster in the context of climate change through addressing the following questions:

  • Which narratives currently dominate the field of climate change and natural disaster risk and to which extend are these helpful in promoting action?
  • Which risks are judged to be acceptable or in-acceptable by societies or stakeholders? Is there a difference in acceptability between manufactured risks versus natural risks?
  • The role of film, literature, philosophy and theology in the representation of risks and natural hazards.


Theme 3: Win-win strategies for disaster risk reduction and climate change

Many climate change and disaster risk reduction strategies developed on paper are never implemented because they are perceived to be costly in the short term. Win-win strategies overcome this implementation gap by bringing both short term benefits while also addressing long term climate change concerns. Under this theme we invite papers that demonstrate such win-win strategies both in both adaptation and mitigation. Examples are:

  • Investment in sustainable energy or energy efficiency as economic stimulus for, e.g., fostering development and reducing unemployment.
  • Agent-based and actor-based approaches to climate economics. What kind of economic and financial instruments would be efficient for mitigation? What are the win-win opportunities for climate mitigation?


Theme 4: Win-win strategies for coastal cities

Many coastal cities are facing rapidly increasing coastal risks due to rapid development, climate induced sea-level rise and locally-induced subsidence due to ground fluid abstraction. Focusing of emblematic cities in their confrontation with natural hazards this theme invites papers that develop win-win strategies for disaster risk reduction in coastal cities. Perceivable win-win strategies are ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction and managing subsidence through increasing water use efficiency and/or decreasing consumption. Possible cities to focus upon are:

  • Shanghai (coastal issue – subsidence because of over exploitation of local aquifers water)
  • Tokyo (tsunami. Issue of aging population migrating out of the potential disaster zones)
  • Barcelona (heat related risks – droughts and lower water consumption. positive example of complicities between communities and administrations)


Theme 5: How to design effective science-policy-practise interfaces?

  • What empirical insights on an effective science-policy interface have been gained?
  • What kind of organizations are needed to act as knowledge broker between science, policy and practise?
  • How should the future education system be shaped in order to better deal with this challenge?
  • Articulating complicities between communities and administrations in the context of natural hazards could be developed through the introduction of participatory strategies in risk and hazard management.


Suggested reading

  • Nordhaus: A question of balance
  • Pindyck, R.S. 2013: Climate change policy: what do the models tell us? Journal of Economic Literature.
  • Glantz, M.H. 2001: Lessons Learned from 1997-1998 El Nino: Once burned twice shy. UNEP, NCAR, UNU, WMO and ISDR.
  • Renn, O. 2008. Risk governance: coping with uncertainty in a complex world. Earthscan, pp. xx-455.
  • Helbing, D. 2013. Globally networked risks and how to respond. Nature, 497, 51–59. doi:10.1038/nature12047
  • Pelling M and Blackburn S (eds) 2013. Megacities and the Coast: Social and Environmental Transformations, Earthscan, London.

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