All posts by Louis Lemkow

Climate Change and Natural Disaster (CCND) .some thoughts

Climate Change and Natural Disaster (CCND)

Some thoughts


CCND is a widely researched area nevertheless, it was felt that governance and actor oriented research should be prioritized. In particular the analysis of the interaction between communities and the “competent” administrations involved in the governance of natural hazards was thought to be of special interest. It was noted that there is a wide spectrum of community responses to natural hazards, ranging from a clear capacity for self-organisation to complete inaction – from resilience to passivity. It is important to understand these different dynamics. 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. It was also argued the research should be oriented towards  providing solutions, and in particular short term solutions which have benefits for the long term.


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.


Theme: Learning from disasters

Traditional societies often have developed a sense of risk and learned to live with risks (Example: Swiss avalanches). Modern societies have this ability to some extent and/or are not able to learn from past disasters.

  • Some types of disasters have become rarer. Coastal (urban) societies, for example are protected against high probability, low impact events. The residual risks of low probability, high impact disasters are, however rising due to urbanization and development in the coastal zone and climate change.
  • Bureaucracy, vested interests and fragmented of responsibilities and a gap between exposed and vulnerable people and decision making prevent learning. What kind of governance structure have or have not been able to learn from disasters? What is the relationship between administration and communities?
  • Which cultural factors influence social resilience to disasters?
  • Which societies have learned what from which disasters? When do people manage to self-organize to reduce risks?

Theme: Win-win strategies for DRR and climate change

Which DRR options can be developed that have short-term benefits while also addressing the long term DRR and climate change issues. For example, how do we develop critical coastal infrastructure so that we have short term gains as well as the long term protection against disaster risk and sea-level rise? Perceivable win-win strategies are

  • Ecosystem-based coastal protection: Protection and ecosystem services
  • Management of subsidence + increased water use-efficiency. For example, Tokyo has managed to stop subsidence through reducing water demand by supplying industrial water as an alternative and promoting water saving and recycling technologies.
  • Investment in protection infrastructure or sustainable energy or energy efficiency as economic stimulus: fostering development and reducing unemployment

Theme: Globalization of disaster risk

  • Major disaster events are perceived globally and influence discourse and possibly action throughout the world. Germany, for example, decided to phase nuclear energy after the Fukushima disaster
  • Consequences of disasters are felt around the globe. For example, the earthquake/tsunami in Japan had consequences on the supply chains for the automobile and
  • Coupling of climate change and disasters


Theme: Governance of the risk to critical infrastructure

  • Dependency between services in particular in urban is increasing.

Theme: Acceptability of risks and lexical preferences

  • Mary Douglas: unacceptable risk
  • in-acceptable risks -> lexical preference -> layers of decision making
  • manufactured risks vs. natural risks


Focusing on emblematic cities in their confrontation with natural hazards was proposed as an appropriate option in the conference. The suggestions were

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


Other possible general issues for the conference:

–          Understanding the rather diffuse narrative of natural disaster in the context of climate change

–          Measuring and analyzing reactions to manufactured/anthropogenic risk

–          The role of film, literature, philosophy and theology in the representation of risks and natural  hazards


Possible speakers: Bill Nordhaus Robert Pinndike,Ortwin Renn, Joseph Stiglitz

Louis and Jochen