Tag Archives: climate change

Climate Governance Innovation meets Complexity Theory

Social Innovation Generation (SiG) at University of Waterloo has posted a range of interesting talks on complexity theory, governance and innovation. In this talk, Mathew Hoffman explores the applicability of self-organized criticality to the study of innovation in global governance. After introducing the concept of self-organized criticality, the discussion will turn to its utility for studying social systems. Matthew Hoffmann will present both an agent-based model of the evolution of social norms and empirical illustrations of innovations in global governance drawn from work on climate change and multilateral treaty-making.

Speaker Profile
Matthew Hoffman is an Assistant Professor in the department of Political Science at the University of Toronto and in the department of Social Sciences at the University of Toronto, Scarborough. His research interests include global environmental governance, social constructivism, and complexity theory. His 2005 book from SUNY press “Ozone Depletion and Climate Change: Constructing a Global Response” explored a complex adaptive systems approach to global environmental governance and his current book manuscript to be published by Oxford University Press investigates the phenomenon of experimentation with multiple forms of climate governance.

Conference “Experiments, system innovation and sustainability transitions in Asia”

Experiments, system innovation and sustainability transitions in Asia
15-17 July, 2010, AMARI Rincome Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand
*** Call for Papers***
Deadline for Short Papers: 30 April, 2010
Transitions to alternative, more sustainable, development pathways are crucial to human well-being world-wide, but have been more studied with the focus of policy action mainly in developed country contexts. However, the transformative changes occurring now in the rapidly urbanising and industrialising Asian countries mean that this focus needs to shift. Transitions towards more sustainable development pathways are also fundamental challenges in emerging and rapidly-growing economies and societies.
Achieving a more profound decoupling of economic growth and development gains from resource and pollution intensities requires deep-seated social, institutional and technological change. Such change needs to be systemic in the sense of affecting structures and behaviour across the economy and society; what has come to be called ‘system innovation’.
Previous research has shown that system innovation occurs through a quasi-evolutionary interaction between innovations emerging in niches and opportunities for change opening-up in socio-technical regimes. System innovation involves the destabilisation of existing incumbent regimes and their reconfiguration or transformation by new technologies, actors, behaviours and rules. Such processes tend to take time; typically some decades.
The new research challenge is to apply these concepts and ideas to rapidly-developing country contexts. Here socio-technical regimes are already undergoing transformation, but often following models from technologically-leading countries. The question is whether in rapidly developing country contexts we can also identify interactions between niches generating sustainable alternatives and emergent socio-technical regimes that could transform development pathways.
There is preliminary evidence of a great variety of ‘sustainability experiments’ – defined as planned initiatives to embody a highly-novel socio-technical configuration likely to lead to substantial (environmental) sustainability gains – underway in Asia. This conference will focus on the nature and role of these spaces for innovation in transforming Asian development pathways in field such as energy, mobility, agriculture and housing in both urban and rural areas.
The conference will take stock of what has been learned in the IHDP-IT (International Human Dimensions Programme Core Project on Industrial Transformation) over the last years, as well as move forward the new research agenda now supported by the APN (Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research). We welcome an international network of researchers, practitioners, policy makers and other actors who are interested in exploring alternative, more sustainable development pathways.
All enquiries about the conference should be directed to the conference email: it-apn2010@ivm.vu.nl. Information about registration, accommodation, venue etc will be posted at the conference website.
The conference is organised under the auspices of the IHDP’s Industrial Transformation project; APN – Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research; USER, Chiang Mai University, Thailand; Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands and the Jadavpur University, India.

Cyber-Environmental Politics?

by Victor Galaz


Google and renewable energy? Hackers, deforestation and carbon emission rights? This might sound like an odd mix of events, but something is definitely in pipeline. Global environmental change and rapid information technological change have for a long time been viewed as parallel, and decoupled global phenomena. A number of events in the last month indicate that this is likely to change. Just consider the following events:

GoodMorning! Full Render #2 from blprnt on Vimeo.

Internet giant Google recently got an approval in the US, to buy and sell energy. This happens after the company’s explicit ambition to become one of the major players in renewable energy. According to the New York Times: “The company’s Green Energy Czar Bill Weihl said the company was fully committed to accelerating the development of renewable energy technologies that can prove more cost-effective than coal power, as a means of both curbing carbon emissions and trimming its own giant energy bill”.

In addition, computer hackers seem to have found a new pool of resources to steal from – emissions trading. As reported by Wired recently, hackers have been successful in stealing millions of dollars by launching “a targeted phishing attack against employees of numerous companies in Europe, New Zealand and Japan, which appeared to come from the German Emissions Trading Authority”. A similar attack was assumed in Brazil in December 2008 when hackers managed to get in to the government logging databases. The impacts? Illegal harvest of 1.7 million cubic meters of timber, according to Wired.

One final example is of course the ongoing bashing of the IPCC, and the now infamous e-mail hack of UK climate scientists. An interesting follow up is this op-ed in The Australian, arguing that the Internet is allowing climate change skeptics to gain traction. One of the more thought-provoking quotes from the article states:

The `climate consensus’ may hold the establishment — the universities, the media, big business, government — but it is losing the jungles of the web. After all, getting research grants, doing pieces to camera and advising boards takes time. The very ostracism the sceptics suffered has left them free to do their digging untroubled by grant applications and invitations to Stockholm.

See also John Bruno of climateshifts.org, who asks “Who is orchestrating the cyber-bullying?”.

Are moving into an era of cyber-environmental politics? I’m pretty sure that we are.

Are There Limits to Adaptive Governance?

by Emily Boyd

From a development perspective adaptive governance (AG) raises questions about how do you measure fair, efficient and effective processes, who are the winners and losers? The concept of ‘good’ governance in the context of development is about procedural justice and fairness and all that entails to try to stamp out inequalities. It is normative and connected to human rights. Many rely on concepts of ‘good’ governance to set transparent goals in decision-making processes.

For instance, the Nobel Peace Prize Winner Wangari Maathai stated recently that without good governance, Africa was unlikely to overcome its numerous poverty challenges. In the case of SES or coupled climate and development, we are still searching for ways to think about what governance means for understanding coupled, complex, interconnected climate change, ecosystem and development challenges across multiple actors in cities, forests, coastal areas etc. The question that haunts us is whether AG is a ‘utopia’ where getting the principles right leads to a system of management that hides inequalities across scales?

AG emerged from understanding about adaptive management and co-management in natural resource management. AG is in a sense the scaled up version of co-management across hierarchies of decision-making and knowledge. Co-management is by no means a panacea and encounters broad challenges of who is accountable and for what? (e.g. see the work of Plummer and Armitage). Early research from the development community tried to break out of the hegemonies that surround natural resource management and sought to increase understanding for, and interest in, the continual evolution of local knowledge, through farmers own experimentation with crops, soils, and irrigation and with the dynamics of social networks for spreading knowledge as well as risks (for example the work of Chambers, Scoones & Thompson, Leach) (www.ids.ac.uk).

What came out of that work was a revisionist agenda that was much more nuanced about the politics of knowledge. Yet, what was missing from that early work was the resilience dimensions of ecological and climatic change – the stuff that we know now, e.g. the importance of flips, thresholds, feedbacks etc. – and also how knowledge relates to resilience. This is perhaps where adaptive governance can lend a hand specifically to ask questions about how to govern complex climate – development interactions given the imperfections of the ‘real’ world and the inequalities of uneven development.

Let us think about adaptive governance simply as a heuristic to help to pose new critical questions and tease out understandings about features of change, institutional flexibility, scale, and learning in social and ecological systems. Adaptive governance opens up arenas for asking questions about up scaling collective action e.g. the work of Per Olsson and others on the governance of the Great Barrier Reef. Another example is in examining the importance in ecological forecasting (Clark et al 2003). An emerging imperative is to incorporate feedback mechanisms into ecological forecasts, which are essential to predicting ‘potential’ tipping points. How best to manage tipping points also requires consideration of the social dynamics and ways to collectively understand and think about this. The co-production of knowledge looks to be an important part of this.

Adaptive governance also opens up new ways to conceptualize how actors and organizations respond and reorganize following shocks in coupled systems, e.g. the 2005 dieback in Amazonia and 2005 floods in Mumbai and helps us to ask questions about how networks and learning platforms (e.g. in planning for a 2 degree world) connect across different levels of organization in managing for resilience.

Thus to conclude, yes there are limits to adaptive governance. We must avoid panaceas. However it is early days, and the concept has opened up avenues to think critically and engage across disciplines. It is now from further theoretical and empirical work we will get a better grasp of the utility and limits of AG. In the meantime, let us not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Further reading

Clark, et al (2003). “Ecological Forecasts: An Emerging Imperative”, Science 293, 657.

Plummer, R. and DR. Armitage (2007). “Charting the new territory of adaptive co-management: a Delphi study”, Ecology and Society 12(2):10 [online] URL:http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol12/iss2/art10/

Derek, A., Melissa, M. and R. Plummer (2008).” Adaptive co-management and the paradox of learning”, Global Environmental Change Vol.18 (1):86-98.

Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy PhD Symposium

via Emily Boyd

Call for Papers - Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy PhD Symposium

23-24 March 2010, University of Leeds

In order to build capacities and communities of early stage researchers in areas related to climate change economics and policy, CCCEP will host a symposium for PhD students on March 23rd and 24th at the University of Leeds in the UK. Organised over two days, the symposium will include keynote lectures and research methods workshops, and it will enable PhD students from a range of organizations to present and receive constructive feedback on their research ideas and findings either in seminars or through poster presentations. The symposium will include presentations from students at all stages of the PhD process – and it will consider key conceptual, methodological and empirical dimensions.

Abstract Submissions Process

As space at the symposium is limited, we invite those interested in attending to send a 500 word abstract of their research, noting whether it is research in preparation (i.e. in the first year of the PhD), in process (i.e. in the second year) or near to completion. Abstracts will then be reviewed by members of CCCEP, and selected abstracts will be invited either to present or to prepare a poster for the symposium. Abstracts should be sent to Centre Administrator, Margo Hanson (mbers m.hanson@leeds.ac.uk) by 8th February. Comments from the review process and decisions on who will be invited to attend the symposium will be returned by 22nd February. Those attending the symposium will normally be expected to fund their own travel and accommodation expenses.

More info at : http://www.cccep.ac.uk