Thursday, November 26, 2015

What does policy-relevant global environmental knowledge do? The cases of climate and biodiversity

A paper by Esther Turnhout (Wageningen University), Mike Hulme (King's College London) and myself has been published on-line in the journal Current Opinion on Environmental Sustainability.

What does policy-relevant global environmental knowledge do? The cases of climate and biodiversity

There is a surge in global knowledge-making efforts to inform environmental governance. This article synthesises the current state of the art of social science scholarship about the generation and use of global environmental knowledge. We focus specifically on the issues of scale — providing globalized representations of the environment — and relevance — providing knowledge in a form that is considered usable for decision-making. Using the examples of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and the Millennium Assessment, the article discusses what policy relevant global knowledge does: how it represents the environment, and how this specific form of knowledge connects with governance and

The paper can be found at or downloaded here

Friday, September 18, 2015

EVOs, knowledge and resilience in the digital age

As a result of the Mountain-EVO project, an article has appeared on-line in the journal Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability on Environmental Virtual Observatories (EVOs). It has been written by scholars from Imperial College, Birmingham University and Wageningen University, led by the project postdocs Timothy Karpouzoglou and Zed Zulkafli.

Environmental Virtual Observatories (EVOs): prospects for knowledge co-creation and resilience in the Information Age

Timothy Karpouzoglou, Zed Zulkafli, Sam Grainger, Art Dewulf, Wouter Buytaert, David M Hannah

Developments in technologies are shaping information access globally. This presents opportunities and challenges for understanding the role of new technologies in sustainability research. This article focuses on a suite of technologies termed Environmental Virtual Observatories (EVOs) developed for communicating observations and simulation of environmental processes. A strength of EVOs is that they are open and decentralised, thus democratising flow and ownership of information between multiple actors. However, EVOs are discussed rarely beyond their technical aspects. By evaluating the evolution of EVOs, we illustrate why it is timely to engage with policy and societal aspects as well. While first generation EVOs are primed for scientists, second generation EVOs can have broader implications for knowledge co-creation and resilience through their participatory design.

The article is Open Access and can be found at

Karpouzoglou, T., Zulkafli, Z., Grainger, S., Dewulf, A., Buytaert, W., & Hannah, D. M. (2016). Environmental Virtual Observatories (EVOs): prospects for knowledge co-creation and resilience in the Information Age. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 18, 40–48. doi:10.1016/j.cosust.2015.07.015

Friday, July 24, 2015

Governing the future of the delta? An article and a PhD position.

The climate change issue has put a long term decision-making horizon high on the agenda of water governance in delta areas. Long term planning seems more needed than ever, but the future presents itself as broad range of possible scenarios - climate scenarios, socio-economic scenarios, political scenarios, ... - surrounded by irreducible uncertainties. Does this mean we can do nothing more than wait and see, try to adapt to whatever happens, and hope for the best? Not necessarily. Bringing long term considerations into short term decision-making might be both feasible and fruitful.

A paper on this topic, which I co-authored with Katrien Termeer, just appeared on-line in the Journal of Water and Climate Change ( The paper is about the potential of adaptive delta management to contribute to governance capabilities for dealing with the wicked problem of climate change adaptation. This is the abstract:
Due to the long term character of the policy issue, the associated uncertainties and the large variety of affected stakeholders, adapting densely populated delta areas to the impacts of climate change is an important governance challenge and a wicked problem. In this paper, we analyse adaptive delta management (ADM), a policy development approach that relies on adaptation tipping points and adaptation pathways, used by the Dutch Delta Programme to climate proof the Dutch delta. ADM operationalizes adaptive management ideas for the long term governance of river deltas. Taking a governance perspective, we assess the potential of ADM to contribute to each of the five governance capabilities required to deal with wicked problems: reflexivity, responsiveness, resilience, revitalization and rescaling. We conclude that ADM can contribute substantially to the governance capabilities of resilience (through robustness and flexibility) and rescaling (through addressing the time scale mismatch). ADM has the potential to contribute to the governance capabilities of reflexivity and responsiveness, but also has some characteristics that could result in non-reflexivity and non-responsiveness. Enabling ADM as a policy development approach for long term issues requires a long term commitment to iterative policy revision, flexibility and learning in the broader governance system.
The paper can be downloaded here

Work on this topic will continue. Last month, the Ducht Research Council (NWO) awarded a grant for a 4-year project "Deciding about the New Delta: Towards governance arrangements that enable forward-looking decisions on critical water infrastructure". Water management infrastructure has a critical role in enabling and protecting the myriad of activities and resources in deltas all over the world. However, decision-making about constructing, replacing and maintaining structures with lifetimes of 50-100 years has to account for highly uncertain long-term developments, including socio-economic and biophysical developments. Moreover, most existing governance arrangements are ill-equipped to enable forward-looking decisions due to short electoral cycles, vested interests in the status quo, inability to deal with uncertainties, and the tendency to discount the future. The overall question addressed by the PhD position in this project is: how can governance arrangements enable the incorporation of long-term developments in short-term decisions on water management infrastructure? The focus of this project will be on two types of physical assets in the Dutch delta where forward-looking decisions are urgent and consequential: hydraulic structures and wastewater systems. Partners in this project are Rijkswaterstaat, RIONED, Tauw, Hanzehogeschool Grongingen, and waterboard Zuiderzeeland.

This means we are currently looking for a candidate for this PhD position at the Public Administration and Policy group at Wageningen University. We are looking for a social scientist with a completed Master's degree in public administration or related discipline, excellent research skills and a keen interest in water governance and long-term policy issues.

Applications are welcome until 6 September 2015 through this link:


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Special Issue on the Governance of Adaptation to Climate Change as a multi-level, multi-sector and multi-actor challenge

A special issue of the Journal of Water and Climate Change on "the governance of adaptation to climate change as a multi-level, multi-sector and multi-actor challenge" has just appeared. I acted as guest editor for this special issue, together with Sander Meijerink and Hens Runhaar.

The special issue can be found on the journal website:

In this special issue, three crosscutting issues in the governance of climate change adaptation are discussed. These are the multi-scale, multisector and multi-actor challenges in the governance of climate change adaptation. The multi-scale challenge refers of climate change adaptation plays out. This involves issues like framing the scale of the climate change adaptation problem,the institutionalization of responsibilities for climate change adaptation over different levels of governance, and dealing with the tension between the governance scale and the relevant climate change adaptation problem scales. The multi-sector challenge refers to the variety of policy sectors
involved in the governance of climate change adaptation. Given the cross-cutting character of climate
change adaptation, decisions on whether and how to mainstream climate change adaptation over different policy sectors are of key concern here. The multi-actor challenge refers to the roles and responsibilities of actors of public and private actors in the governance of climate change adaptation. This includes questions about modes of governance, the allocation of public and private responsibilities, public–private interactions, and about the specific roles of research institutes and non-governmental organizations.

The Editorial: The governance of adaptation to climate change as a multi-level, multi-sector and multi-actor challenge: a European comparative perspective is open access, and can be found here:

This is the list of articles:
Handling adaptation policy choices in Sweden, Germany, the UK and the Netherlands
Eric Massey, Dave Huitema, Heiko Garrelts, Kevin Grecksch, Heleen Mees, Tim Rayner, Sofie Storbjörk, Catrien Termeer and Maik Winges.......... 9–24
The role of leadership in regional climate change adaptation: a comparison of adaptation practices initiated by governmental and non-governmental actors
Sander Meijerink, Sabina Stiller, E. Carina H. Keskitalo, Peter Scholten, Robert Smits and Frank van Lamoen.......... 25–37
The rationales of resilience in English and Dutch flood risk policies
Mark Wiering, Colin Green, Marleen van Rijswick, Sally Priest and Andrea Keessen.......... 38–54
Adapting flood management to climate change: comparing policy frames and governance practices in the Low Countries
Ann Crabbé, Mark Wiering and Duncan Liefferink.......... 55–70
Do state traditions matter? Comparing deliberative governance initiatives for climate change adaptation in Dutch corporatism and British pluralism
M. J. Vink, D. Benson, D. Boezeman, H. Cook, A. Dewulf and C. Termeer.......... 71–88
Reconciling collaborative action research with existing institutions: insights from Dutch and German climate knowledge programmes
Catrien Termeer, Arwin van Buuren, Joerg Knieling and Manuel Gottschick.......... 89–103