Friday, 12 July 2019

Extinction Rebellion and Climate Activism - free talk and Q&A

As part of one of our sustainable leadership courses, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, Clare Farrell, gives a free lecture at the University of Cumbria.

July 19th 545pm to 7pm, Heelis Room, Charlotte Mason Building, Ambleside Campus, Rydal Road, Ambleside.

A co-founder of the global protest movement Extinction Rebellion, Clare Farrell will share reflections on climate activism. Clare is a lecturer at Central St Martins art college. In 2018 she co-founded Extinction Rebellion, a non-violent civil disobedience campaign. Clare is a key media spokesperson for the group, and representative at their key meetings with politicians and others.

A Q&A will be hosted by Prof Jem Bendell.

No registration: first come first served, capacity of 70 (with 40 students already attending).

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Compendium of Research Reports on Climate Chaos and Impacts

Professor Jem Bendell, July 7th, 2019

Since the Deep Adaptation paper was released from IFLAS at the end of July 2018, there have been many alarming reports about environmental change and its implications for humanity. These reports, from the world’s leading scientists and international organisations, provide extra weight to the argument that humanity needs to prepare for disruptive impacts as well as seeking to curb them. Prepared by the author of the Deep Adaptation paper, Professor Jem Bendell, this Compendium summarises some of the more significant studies. The Compendium is divided into four sections. The first is on our changing climate, the second is on related environmental changes, and the third is on societal impacts and the fourth is on the significance of our response.

These summaries of 23 studies over the 12 months since July 2018 is nowhere near exhaustive, but provides a basis for an up-to-date discussion. In most summaries of each research report, Professor Bendell offers a short reflection in a paragraph beginning “One might conclude that…” Such paragraphs should not be equated with what the research paper authors write themselves.

If you work on this topic professionally, or have written one of the papers and would like to comment, we encourage you to consider joining in the Research Discussion Group on the Deep Adaptation Forum at This Compendium does not include recent research on mitigation innovations or on adaptation to climate change, the latter of which will be covered in a future summary. If you are a researcher and could help with compiling such a Compendium on Adaptation, for release in 2020, please join the Research Group where you will find some guidance for contributing. To keep up-to-date with future research summaries, please consider subscribing to the Deep Adaptation Quarterly.

To reference this compendium, please cite:
Bendell, J. (2019) Compendium of Research Reports on Climate Chaos and Impacts, Unpublished Research Note, Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS), University of Cumbria, UK.


Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene

This study introduced the notion of "tipping cascades" (p4) in our climate system, helping us to understand the risk posed to the future of the human race from destabilising our climate. The list of potential tipping points or cascading systems that the paper discusses includes the thaw of permafrost, which would release trapped greenhouse gases; the death of the Amazon rainforest, which would eliminate one of the most powerful natural ways that atmospheric carbon dioxide gets reduced; and the loss of ice sheets. It explains strong, intrinsic, biogeophysical feedbacks that are difficult to influence by human actions. “If these tipping points were to cascade, a high level of warming could be locked in no matter what humans tried to do" (p6). Agricultural production and water supplies are especially vulnerable to changes in the hydroclimate, leading to hot/dry or cool/wet extremes. Societal declines, collapses, migrations/resettlements, reorganizations, and cultural changes were often associated with severe regional droughts and with the global megadrought at 4.2–3.9 thousand years before present, all occurring within the relative stability of the narrow global Holocene temperature range of approximately ±1°C (p5). The authors describe the possibility of a climate trajectory that they call Hothouse Earth. Such a situation would exceed the limits of adaptation and result in a substantial overall decrease in agricultural production, increased prices, and even more disparity between wealthy and poor countries (p5). A Hothouse Earth trajectory would almost certainly flood deltaic environments, increase the risk of damage from coastal storms, and eliminate coral reefs (and all of the benefits that they provide for societies). While reducing emissions is a priority, much more could be done to reduce direct human pressures on critical biomes that contribute to the regulation of the state of the Earth System through carbon sinks and moisture feedbacks, such as the Amazon and boreal forests, and to build much more effective stewardship of the marine and terrestrial biospheres in general (p5). The contemporary way of guiding development founded on theories, tools, and beliefs of gradual or incremental change, with a focus on economy efficiency, will likely not be adequate to cope with this trajectory (p6).

One might conclude that this study shows how we need to not only have systemic change to drawdown and cut carbon, but also that we need to prepare to deeply adapt to the coming climate chaos. The mainstream climate adaptation community has been based on an assumption of maintaining current socio-economic systems, and this study could imply that we move beyond that to discuss how to adapt to a breakdown in our normal societies (i.e. the “deep adaptation” agenda).

Steffen, W. et al (July 2018) "Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene", PNAS. Available from: (accessed 30 Dec 2018)

Global Warming Will Happen Faster Than We Think

This study concludes that three lines of evidence suggest that global warming will be faster than projected in the 2018 IPCC special report. First, greenhouse-gas emissions are still rising – and more rapidly. Second, governments are cleaning up other forms of air pollution faster than the IPCC and most climate modellers have assumed, thereby reducing the aerosol masking effect (global dimming). Third, there are signs that the planet might be entering a natural warm phase that could last for a couple of decades. The Pacific Ocean seems to be warming up, in accord with a slow climate cycle known as the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation. The authors conclude that "These three forces reinforce each other. We estimate that rising greenhouse-gas emissions, along with declines in air pollution, bring forward the estimated date of 1.5 °C of warming to around 2030, with the 2 °C boundary reached by 2045"

One might conclude from this study that it is time to listen to the many critics of the IPCC for being too conservative in its estimates, arising from questionable methodology and political influence (see below). The implication is that we cannot continue our incremental efforts like we do now; even if we try to, the planet won’t let us.

Xu,Y., Ramanathan,V. & Victor, D. (2019) "Global warming will happen faster than we think" Nature 564, 30-32 Available from (Accessed Jan 5 2019)

Global Reconstruction Of Historical Ocean Heat Storage And Transport

This study used analysis of real time currents and ocean temperature changes to reconstruct ocean temperature changes over the past century. Estimating for global, full-depth ocean coverage, they reveal warming since 1871. They conclude that more than 90% of the heat trapped by humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions has been absorbed by the seas, with just a few per cent heating the air, land and ice caps respectively.

One might conclude from this study that we should heed those scientists who argue that there is a significant time lag in the effect of increased CO2 on global average atmospheric temperatures. Which means that a lot of heating is already locked in over the coming decades, whatever we do to emissions. Like a hot water radiator in your living room, this heat will warm our air. That suggests we need to explore how to prepare.

Zanna, L., Khatiwala, S., Gregory, J. M., Ison J. & Heimbach, P. (2019) "Global reconstruction of historical ocean heat storage and transport", PNAS. Available from (Accessed Jan 8 2019)

WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2018

The study provided an authoritative statement on the accelerating rate of sea level rise. Global mean sea level for 2018 was around 3.7 mm higher than in 2017 and the highest on record. Over the period January 1993 to December 2018, the average rate of rise was 3.15 ± 0.3 mm yr-1, while the estimated acceleration was 0.1 mm yr (p 16). However, if one does not restrict analysis to the caution of established statisticians and uses the measurements of sea level rise over the last few years to indicate a possible trend (rather than anomalies), then this means the rate of rise is increasing.

This study also provided an overview of some of the impacts from climate change. In particular it mentioned agriculture and the displacement of people. It explained that exposure of the agricultural sector to climate extremes is threatening to reverse gains made in ending hunger and malnutrition, as world hunger is now rising after a prolonged decline. Hunger is significantly worse in countries with agricultural systems that are highly sensitive to rainfall and temperature variability and severe drought, and where the livelihood of a high proportion of the population depends on agriculture. Displacement is also rising due to climate change. Out of the 17.7 million IDPs tracked by the IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix (IOM DTM), over 2 million people were displaced due to disasters linked to weather and climate events as at September 2018.

One might conclude from the data on sea level rise that the whole climate system is now changing in a non-linear way. That means a form of runaway climate change. Because, as explained in the Deep Adaptation paper, sea level rise can only come from the melting of ice on land or the thermal expansion of water – so it is a key indicator of overall changes.

WMO (2019) "WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2018", WMO Available at

Climate Change Drives Widespread and Rapid Thermokarst Development in Very Cold Permafrost in the Canadian High Arctic

This paper reports that the melting of the permafrost in one area of the Arctic is happening much faster than had been projected by models, even running the worst-case scenarios based on emissions growth. What is being seen now was not meant to be happening until 2090.

One might conclude that this is evidence of climate change occurring much faster than past predictions and therefore the situation is more dangerous than intergovernmental consensus had warned and that the cause of this discrepancy could be the positive feedback loops, where the Earth is now heating itself.

Farquharson, L. M., Romanovsky, V.E., Cable, W. L., Walker, D. A., Kokelj,S. V., & Nicolsky, D. (2019). "Climate change drives widespread and rapid thermokarst development in very cold permafrost in the Canadian High Arctic. Geophysical Research Letters, 46. Available at

Greenland Melt Drives Continuous Export Of Methane From The Ice-Sheet Bed.

This study explains that ice sheets have been ignored in assessments of global methane predictions and budgets. This research found that ice sheets overlie extensive, biologically active methanogenic wetlands and that high rates of methane export to the atmosphere can occur as ice sheets melt. The research shows that the methane situation is worse than we thought.

One might conclude that this is another example of how methane has not been given sufficient attention in our climate change assessments, which is a grave error given how powerfully warming the gas is in the atmosphere.

Lamarche-Gagnon, G. et al (2019) "Greenland melt drives continuous export of methane from the ice-sheet bed." Nature Vol. 565, pages 73–77. Available from (Accessed Jan 3, 2019)

Very Strong Atmospheric Methane Growth In The Four Years 2014-2017: Implications For The Paris Agreement

This study finds that methane's increase since 2007 was not expected in future greenhouse gas scenarios compliant with the targets of the Paris Agreement. If the increase continues at the same rates it may become very difficult to meet the Paris goals. The radiative forcing, or heating effect from methane is about 25% stronger than the value used in the IPCC assessment. There is now urgent need to reduce methane emissions, especially from the fossil fuel industry. If the increased methane burden is driven by increased emissions from natural sources or driven by a decline in the oxidative capacity of the atmosphere, and that these are climate feedbacks (warming driving further warming) then the implications are serious indeed.

One might conclude from this study that our situation is more precarious than we had been told before, that methane emissions need cutting immediately, but that we don’t know if reducing those emissions will make much difference to atmospheric levels, so we need to consider other options. Such options might include limited and cautious forms of geoengineering but must also include adaptation to future climate chaos. There is no conclusive evidence from this study that there is significant methane release from hydrates on the Arctic seafloor (which is the major concern, as that would threaten human extinction).

Nisbet, E. G., et al. (2019) “Very strong atmospheric methane growth in the four years 2014-2017: Implications for the Paris Agreement” Global Biogeochemical Cycles Vol. 3 Issue 33 pp 318-342, Available at

Permafrost Nitrous Oxide Emissions Observed On A Landscape Scale Using The Airborne Eddy-Covariance Method

This study looked at Nitrous Oxide, a greenhouse gas nearly 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide and which stays in the atmosphere for an average of 114 years. It has “conventionally been assumed to have minimal emissions in permafrost regions”, according to the authors. They found that nitrous oxide emissions are 12 times higher than previously thought and therefore more of a threat. These emissions are coming from melting permafrost. Nitrous oxide also poses a second threat because in the stratosphere, sunlight and oxygen convert the gas into nitrogen oxides, which destroy the ozone layer.

One might conclude that this study shows how once we destabilise the climate sufficiently, there are unforeseen consequences, so that we are not in control of the situation (if we ever were).

Wilkerson, J. (2019) “Permafrost nitrous oxide emissions observed on a landscape scale using the airborne eddy-covariance method” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Vol. 19, 4257-4268. Available at (Accessed April 19 2019)

Large Influence Of Soil Moisture On Long-Term Terrestrial Carbon Uptake.

This study is the first to actually quantify the effects through the 21st century and demonstrates that wetter-than-normal years do not compensate for losses in carbon uptake during dryer-than-normal years, caused by events such as droughts or heatwaves. That is an important finding because, currently, the ocean and terrestrial biosphere (forests, savannas, etc.) are absorbing about 50% of releases of greenhouse gases by human activity —explaining the bleaching of coral reefs and acidification of the ocean, as well as the increase of carbon storage in our forests. The authors state: "It is unclear, however, whether the land can continue to uptake anthropogenic emissions at the current rates." Instead, there findings suggest that the increasing trend in carbon uptake rate [on land] may not be sustained past the middle of this century and could result in accelerated atmospheric CO2 growth.

One might conclude that this is another example of how the planet’s capacity for moderating human activity has been breached, and therefore we now face runaway climate change, so that drawing down and cutting carbon is no longer a sufficient agenda.

Gentine, P. et al (2019) "Large influence of soil moisture on long-term terrestrial carbon uptake." Nature 565, 476–479

What Lies Beneath: The Understatement Of Existential Climate Risk

This report explains how the process of consensus and scientific conservativism in the IPCC means that over decades it has systematically under-estimated the pace and risks of climate change. It explains that this reckless conservativism has been supported by a culture of political expediency: deciding what is acceptable to say to placate governments and their corporate interests. It gives details of how the IPCC have excluded key information over the years due to uncertainty, rather than including it based on a precautionary principle. It explains how the IPCC shifted the baseline from the start of the industrial revolution to 1850 in order to make the targets seem more feasible. It then argues that IPCC carbon budgets are false; once projected emissions from future food production and deforestation are taken into account, there is no carbon budget left for fossil-fuel emissions within a 2°C global heating target. (p24).

The authors argue that rapid reduction of carbon emissions was excluded from consideration by policymakers because it is deemed to be too economically dislocating. Therefore the IPCC accepted the continuing expansion of  fossil fuels in the first half of the 21st century, eventually counteracted by massive expansion of  negative emission technologies, including those not yet invented or not economic at scale, in the second half of the century. The authors that that in so doing, both the IPCC and government policymakers are complicit today in destroying the very conditions which make human life possible – and that there is no greater crime against humanity (p39). The authors condemn the “fragility at the highest levels of corporate and public service leaderships. Their ability to spot, identify and handle unexpected, non-normative events is... perilously inadequate at critical moments...” (p38).

The authors argue that a different paradigm was required, that focused on existential risk management i.e. deliberations on what is needed to protect billions of people and even the very survival of the human race. That “requires brutally honest articulation of the risks, opportunities and the response time frame, the development of new existential risk-management techniques outside conventional politics, and global leadership and integrated policy.” (p15).

One might conclude that this report adds weight to the arguments in the Deep Adaptation paper that those working on environmental issues are amongst the worst deniers of likely collapse, due to their income, status and identity being wedded to a narrative of pragmatism of incremental change. One might also wonder whether the IPCC’s past winners of the Nobel Prize may one day face calls to appear in a future Climate Truth and Reconciliation process, for crimes against humanity.

Spratt, D., & Dunlop, I. (2018) "What lies beneath: The Understatement Of Existential Climate Risk" National Centre for Climate Restoration. Available from (Accessed Jan 1 2019)

Aerosol-driven droplet concentrations dominate coverage and water of oceanic low-level clouds

This study reports on the latest insight into the cooling effect of the aerosol pollution from human activity. It is mainstream consensus that the global climate is cooled by about 0.5 C due to an aerosol masking effect, coming from pollution from burning coal and other dirty fuels. The research concludes that the atmosphere is twice as sensitive to aerosols as was previously thought, so that more of the sun’s rays are reflected away from the Earth than previously calculated.

One might conclude that this finding means it is game over for humanity preserving our current civilisation. By which I mean as we clean up our dirty pollution, then the world’s climate will heat further and very fast (as the masking effect from such pollution only lasts about a month or so). Some may conclude that this situation means we even risk rates of warming that could trigger cascading feedbacks that risk not only societal collapse but human extinction. With that in mind, more people may call for Marine Cloud Brightening to be tested right now over the Arctic.  

Rosenfeld David; Zhu, Yannian; Wang, Minghuai; Zheng, Youtong; Goren, Tom & Yu, Shaocai (2019) "Aerosol-driven droplet concentrations dominate coverage and water of oceanic low-level clouds" Science Vol. 363, Issue 6427. Available at

Status of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6) and Goals of the Workshop

This is a presentation for a workshop where the latest generation of climate models was discussed.

The latest climate models, which use more advanced scientific methods, are showing temperatures rises at least 2 degrees hotter than previous projections based on the same carbon emissions. There are a variety of theories about why, some of which relate to the importance of more dynamic relationships between multiple factors. Although not a peer-reviewed paper, it is included here because it helps explain why the IPCC and climate science community have been under-predicting the pace and impacts of climate change.

One might conclude from this conference presentation that we will soon have a more accurate view of what the climate may do in future. That would be a mistake, because models are not great predictors of climate. Instead, the fact that these models are projecting more rapid and damaging changes than past models shows how the previous confidence of climate scientists and policy makers, including within the IPCC, was based on a false pride in a particular mode of human thought – using statistics and computers. Instead, information from the paleo record, basic logic, and actual observations, combined with the precautionary approach and a reverence for nature, could have led to more intelligent conversations over decades within the field of climate science and policy. However, these models do suggest that the future IPCC meetings and reports are going to be quite dramatic. Yet if the international system of cooperation breaks down in the face of climate disruption then their soft power may disappear.

Eyring, V; Flato, G; Lamarque, J; Meehl, J; Senior, C; Stouffer, R & Taylor K (2019) “Status of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 and Goals of the Workshop” Coupled Model Intercomparison Project. Available at


Worldwide Decline Of The Entomofauna: A Review Of Its Drivers

The study shows that the biodiversity of insects is threatened worldwide. Compiling a range of studies, it estimates 80% of the total biomass of insects has disappeared in 25-30 years. It reveals dramatic rates of decline that may lead to the extinction of 40% of the world's insect species over the next few decades. This is a huge problem for ecosystems and the human race, as insects are at the base of every food web; they pollinate the large majority of plant species, keep the soil healthy, recycle nutrients, and control pests. The paper finds that intensive agriculture is the main driver of the declines, particularly the heavy use of pesticides, but that climate change is also a significant factor.

One might conclude from this report that humans have made the environment more susceptible to collapse from climate change, by weakening ecosystems. Together, this may be a perfect storm that speeds up the collapse agricultural productivity and therefore human civilisation as we know it today.

Sánchez-Bayo, F., & Wyckhuys, K. A. G. (2019) “Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers” Biological Conservation Vol. 232, pp 8-27.  Available at

IPBES Global Assessment (Preview)

This study will be a 1,800-page tome authored by 400 scientists, published by a UN agency. In a preview of the full document, it chronicles widespread destruction wrought by humans, some of it irreparable. Up to a million of Earth's estimated eight million species face extinction, many of them within decades. This is shown to have major impacts on agriculture and thus food supply. Therefore “feeding the world in a sustainable manner entails the transformation of food systems," the report notes. It calls for revamping global food production, retooling the financial sector, moving beyond GDP as a measure of progress and many other "transformative changes"  to both save Nature and ourselves.

One might conclude from this report, and how it has been promoted ahead of full publication, that the scientific community involved in the environment is starting to panic as they see the collapse of ecosystems around the world.

Díaz, Sandra; Settele, Josef; Brondízio, Eduardo et al (2019) "Summary for policymakers of the global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services [Advance copy]" IPBES. Available at (accessed 7 July 2019)

Co-Extinctions Annihilate Planetary Life During Extreme Environmental Change

This study concludes that many species die together when key species are badly affected. “As our understanding of the importance of ecological interactions in shaping ecosystem identity advances, it is becoming clearer how the disappearance of consumers following the depletion of their resources - a process known as ‘co-extinction’ - is more likely the major driver of biodiversity loss… ecological dependencies amplify the direct effects of environmental change on the collapse of planetary diversity by up to ten times.”

One might conclude that Chief Seattle was the smart one in the room when he told the invaders: “Humankind has not woven the web of life.
We are but one thread within it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.
All things connect.”

Strona, Giovanni & Bradshaw, Corey J. A.  (2018) “Co-extinctions annihilate planetary life during extreme environmental change” Nature: Scientific Reports Vol. 8, Article number: 16724. Available at accessed Jun 23 2019


Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 ºC

This study from the IPCC warned that the impacts and costs 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming will be far greater than the expectations previously established by the IPCC. It argues that half a degree may be the difference between a world with coral reefs and Arctic summer sea ice, and a world without them. To meet a goal of only 1.5 °C average warming, this demands immediately cutting the planet’s emissions to 45 % below 2010 levels by 2030. The report states this target means “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” It notes that the world is on track for a 3-4°C temperature rise: something that will be catastrophic for human civilisation.

One might conclude from this report that the climate system is more sensitive than policy makers knew, and therefore mitigation targets should be even more stringent. However, the report is from the IPCC, which now has a proven track record of underestimating and toning down findings. Looking at its recommendations, which include rolling out technologies for carbon sequestration which do not exist yet, one may conclude that this report is the first time readers are able to conclude that it is too late to stop catastrophic warming, and so the agenda needs to more clearly involve adaptation.

IPCC (2018), "Global Warming of 1.5 ºC", IPCC. Available from: (accessed 30 Dec 2018)

The Effects Of Climate Extremes On Global Agricultural Yields

This study finds that Africa is most vulnerable to hunger as temperatures rise, in part because most of their grain is consumed by humans, so there is little leeway when harvests fail. It argues that “increasing the resilience climate extremes requires a concerted effort at local, regional and international levels to reduce negative impacts for farmers and communities depending on agriculture for their living."

One might conclude from this study that adaptation to climate change could become the central principle for anti-poverty programmes across Africa and the majority world.

Vogel, Elisabeth, et al. (2019) “The effects of climate extremes on global agricultural yields” Environmental Research Letters, Vol. 14, No 5 Available at (accessed July 3 2019)

The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture

This study explains that of 6000 cultivable plant species, only 9 account for 66% of total global crop production, which means they are very vulnerable to diseases. More food than ever is produced, but in monocultures and only 1% of farmland is used in organic production. There is also a rapid decline in key ecosystems that deliver numerous services essential to food and agriculture, including supply of freshwater, protection against storms, floods and other hazards, and habitats for species such as fish and pollinators. This situation of limited food diversity increases the risk of from climate change, which will stress plants and animals and make disease more likely.

One might conclude from this study that our modern agricultural system, driven by profit, has accentuated the hazards from climate change and we urgently need leadership to diversify our food systems, as described in my review of food security here.

Bélanger, J., & Pilling, D. (eds.). (2019) “The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture”,  FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture Assessments Available at (Accessed April 1 2019)

Climate Change Impacts on Fisheries

This study finds that global fisheries have been shrinking due to climate change. It concludes that by combining the data on global fishery populations with maps of rising ocean temperatures from 1930 to 2010, in turn understanding the effects of temperature changes on sustainable catches. This analysis is aside from the impacts of ocean acidification on fisheries.

One might conclude from this study that the human race is being taught a lesson in remembering we are part of nature and nature is part of us. Because not only is our own human-designed agriculture on land at threat of disruptions through climate change, but fish are also disappearing just when we might seek other means of sustenance.

Plagányi, É. (2019) “Climate change impacts on fisheries” Science Vol. 363, Issue 6430, pp. 930-931. Available at (Accessed April 1 2019)

Climate Change and Poverty

This report notes that the world is increasingly at risk of “climate apartheid”, where the rich pay to escape heat and hunger caused by the escalating climate crisis. It says that the global south (or majority world) will bear an estimated 75% of the costs of the climate crisis. It explains how the impacts of global heating are likely to undermine not only basic rights to life, water, food, and housing for hundreds of millions of people, but also democracy and the rule of law. “Climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction.” In addition, “the risk of community discontent, of growing inequality, and of even greater levels of deprivation among some groups, will likely stimulate nationalist, xenophobic, racist and other responses.” Therefore, “…democracy and the rule of law, as well as a wide range of civil and political rights are every bit at risk”. The report therefore aligns with the premise of Deep Adaptation that climate change will create a cascade of disruption, beginning with food and water, leading to breakdowns in societies. In the report, the author Philp Alston strongly criticises all those working to uphold human rights, including his own previous work, for not making the climate crisis a central issue.

One might conclude that finally someone in a senior role is joining the climate dots to describe how changes are affecting human societies. The author’s criticism of the reticence of his own professional community to engage with how tragic the situation is becoming, and the difficult issues it invites us to discuss, resonates with the analysis in the Deep Adaptation paper on the denial within the environmental movement and profession.

Alston, Philip (2019) “Climate change and poverty” United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Available at

Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II: Impacts, Risks, And Adaptation In The United States

This report is focused on consequences of a changing climate for government departments in the United States. It points out that departmentalising can be counterproductive because you need to see whole systems, but whole-system modelling "is incredibly challenging. It is hard enough to model one system on its own, let alone connect it with a series of others."

One might conclude from this study that although some governmental bureaucracies are seeking to engage with our predicament, despite political volatility, there is little that can be done without leadership from the top to reshape the whole of the economy and society. Which will either energise you or help you to let go, depending on your perspective on the political process in your country.

National Climate Assessment (2018) "Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II" US Global Change Research Program. Available from (Accessed Jan 1 2019)


Warming Assessment Of The Bottom-Up Paris Agreement Emissions Pledges

This study looked at the climate implications of current emissions pathways of countries. Under the Paris agreement, there is no top-down consensus on what is a fair share of responsibility to cut carbon emissions. To get around these differing concepts of fairness, the paper assesses each nation by the least stringent standards they set themselves and then extrapolates this to the world. The findings are that current policies and initiatives are putting the world on course for a global average rise of 5 degrees.

One might conclude from this paper that despite widespread knowledge of climate change amongst politicians and their civil servants, current policies and trajectories mean we will experience global heating sufficient to collapse civilisation and even threaten our own extinction. One might conclude therefore that something is very broken – and worldwide.  

Robiou du Pont, Y. & Meinshausen, M. (Nov 2018) "Warming assessment of the bottom-up Paris Agreement emissions pledges", Nature Communications Vol. 9 Article 4810. Available from

Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2019

The UN Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR) is the flagship report of the United Nations on worldwide efforts to reduce disaster risk. This study explained how “risk science is changing. Hazards interact with each other in increasingly complex ways…” It outlines a new Disaster Risk Assessment framework called Sendai Framework which treats risk as a systemic and complex thing. Climate change is seen to exacerbate others risks and now means that risk reduction policies and measures need to be much more ambitious.

One might conclude that this UN agency is gearing up to provide a new comprehensive and holistic philosophy and framework for how to govern societies in turmoil. One might conclude that such a task won’t have a chance of helping if pursued in such a technocratic fashion.

UNDRR (2019). Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction. Geneva, Switzerland. United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR)

To discuss this research or contribute to a future Compendium, visit the Deep Adaptation Forum's Research Group. 

Acknowledgements: Professor Bendell thanks Matthew Slater for Research Assistance in the preparation of this Compendium and Alan Heeks for funding that assistance.  

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Because It’s Not a Drill - Presentation at a European Commission event on Climate Emergency

As news of our climate predicament worsens, more organisations are exploring the possibility of future disruption to our social and economic systems.

That was the topic of an event organised by staff of DG Connect of the European Commission on May 13th 2019. In the morning, invited speakers shared their views on the climate emergency and potential societal collapse. Then in the afternoon, a workshop was organised on Deep Adaptation to our climate predicament.

The originator of the Deep Adaptation approach, Professor Jem Bendell, gave a speech based on a paper he prepared for the conference. The paper "Because It’s Not a Drill: Technologies for Deep Adaptation to Climate Chaos." is downloadable here.

The paper is being discussed in the Government and Policy interest group of the Deep Adaptation Forum.


The climate emergency calls on us to explore what we can do, individually and collectively, to adapt to climate-induced disruption. Such adaptation must go beyond mere adjustments to our existing economic system and infrastructure, in order to prepare us for the breakdown or collapse of normal societal functions. A framework for exploring this issue, called Deep Adaptation, is summarised. Technologies will be important for helping us develop not only resilience but also collapse-readiness. Five areas of technology are outlined in order to illustrate the kinds of ideas that can emerge from applying a Deep Adaptation approach to our predicament. In outlining technological possibilities, it is emphasised that any technology should be assessed on a case-by-case basis, rather than from a general perspective on whether technology is helpful or not. In addition, the focus on technology in this paper and its associated discussions is not intended to distract from the political and psychological challenge of our climate emergency. Therefore, a transformative economic agenda is retained as a context for how we imagine policies to harness technologies for Deep Adaptation. Brief recommendations are offered for the European Commission   

Friday, 22 February 2019

Deep Adaptation Concept Unlocks Conversations Worldwide on our Climate Tragedy

The release of the Deep Adaptation paper by IFLAS in July 2018 has generated significant attention worldwide. It has been downloaded over 200,000 times, mentioned in media around the world (from Bloomberg to the New York Magazine), and inspired a new generation of climate activists, including some leaders in the Extinction Rebellion movement. Given that impact, Professor Bendell was one of the first academics to sign a public letter supporting the launch of the non-violent rebellion - one of the Guardian's most shared letters ever.

In his paper, Professor Jem Bendell reviewed the latest climate science as well as the pace of response to conclude that humanity now faces inevitable collapse of our societies due to disruptive climate change. He invites readers to explore what an acceptance of that situation could mean for our life and work. He created Deep Adaptation as a framework to aid that exploration. It differs from the mainstream agenda on adaptation as it is premised on the belief that we will not be able to maintain our current systems and way of life in the face of disruptive climate change. Bendell explains "the concept of Deep Adaptation has been unlocking conversations on our climate tragedy because it helps make it slightly more acceptable to discuss our fears about how bad things are and what to do about that."

In the past months Prof Bendell has given some speeches and interviews about this topic. These included a public lecture to 300 people in Bristol, UK in December, then an interview with Scientists Warning TV.

Jem was also interviewed by Extinction Radio and the Future is Beautiful podcast. In 2019 he will be speaking about Deep Adaptation at a range of events, listed here. The topic will also be explored in the leadership course he tutors this summer, over 4 days in the Lake District, UK. He is also now supervising doctoral researchers who are linking their work to the Deep Adaptation agenda.

Given the reaction to the paper, Professor Bendell provided further reflections in a blog on hope and vision in the face of climate-induced collapse. He will be discussing these psychological aspects at the Climate Psychology Alliance event in London in April.

To help the wide range of professionals who want to explore this agenda but are finding their colleagues too incredulous to engage, Bendell is launching a free Deep Adaptation Forum in March. This will enable closer collaboration than the 1000+ Deep Adaptation group on LinkedIn (join that to receive the information on the forum launch). 

Transformative Societal and Professional Learning in Troubling Times - researching aspects of Deep Adaptation to Environmental Breakdown

At IFLAS our cohort of doctoral researchers has expanded. While the topics are diverse, all relate to how we learn in ways that could transform our lives and societies; especially in difficult circumstances. Professor Jem Bendell is their lead supervisor, bringing a methodological emphasis on action research with critical consciousness and an invitation that we explore Deep Adaptation to potential environmental breakdown.

The doctoral students who have joined IFLAS this academic year are Dorian Cave, Cecilie Smith-Christensen and Jason Hocknell-Nickels. From France, Dorian is studying the learning of activists participating in online networks. From Norway, Cecilie is studying the professional learning on Deep Adaptation in the international cultural sector. From the UK, Jason is studying his practice as a coach enabling professional learning within the civil service. Summaries of their research follow below.

Dorian, Cecilie and Jason join existing IFLAS PhD students Jo Chaffer (studying leadership development and sustainability), Aimee Leslie Bogantes (studying the circular economy and sustainability), Christophe Place (studying currency innovation and sustainability), Arianna Briganti (studying leadership in international development) and Sonia Hutchison (studying leadership in social work). Their supervision teams are comprised of Professor Jem Bendell, Dr David Murphy, Dr Kaz Stuart, Dr Darrell Smith, Professor Jack Whitehead, Dr. Marie Huxtable and Dr Nicoletta Policek.

Cecilie Smith-Christensen is researching World Heritage, Deep Adaptation and Sustainable Exchange Systems. She summarises her work thus:

“Runaway climate change is an existential threat to habitats, human civilizations and life as we know it. Despite goals set out through the Paris Agreement (UNFCCC 2016) the World is not on the track to avoid it. Based on recent studies of climate change and its implications for ecosystems, economies and societies, the paper Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy (Bendell, 2018) concludes that social collapse due to climate change is inevitable within the near future. By breaking a taboo within academia and public discourse, the Deep Adaptation approach offers a perspective to consider new perspectives and options in response to climate change.
In my research I will apply the Deep Adaptation Agenda as a meta framing of the implications of climate change and inevitable near-term social collapse on the implementation of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention (1972) most known for the World Heritage List comprising 1092 cultural and natural heritage properties of Outstanding Universal Value. Many of these sites and related communities are already experiencing climate induced disruptions, forms of biological and social collapse, and even the threat of extinction.
In the face of climate change and various forms of disruption, collaboration emerges as the core mechanism to ensure survival and restoration post-collapse. The global network of World Heritage sites and stakeholders lends itself to scale collaborative efforts. However, a general challenge of applying an existing mechanism and social construct is its embeddedness in the neo-classical economic growth paradigm. A key problem is that economic growth on a limited planet cannot be sustainable, and hence even efforts towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals will be unsustainable and consequently contributing to our climate predicament.
Through action research involving a broad set of World Heritage stakeholders I aim to explore shared dilemmas in implementation of the Convention in the context of climate change, and furthermore explore how application and scaling sustainable exchange systems in and around World Heritage sites may help humanity face climate-induced disruption.”

Dorian Cave is researching how online networks enable collective mobilisation through learning. He summarises his work thus:

“The human species is living through a period of existential challenges unparalleled in history. Indeed, the planet Earth is undergoing rapid changes, caused by mankind itself, which could severely compromise human survival — including: the 6th mass extinction event; climatic disruptions; and topsoil losses. These issues are compounded by widespread systemic social and political failures, such as the economic growth imperative; entrenched fossil fuels dependence; rising inequalities; and failing democratic processes.
And yet, global efforts aiming at rising to this civilizational challenge seem scattered, piecemeal, and orders of magnitude below what would be needed; one need only look at current climate change “commitments” in the wake of the 2015 Paris Agreement. I believe that from the perspective of effectuating a global transition to a fairer and more sustainable world, insufficient attention and efforts have been devoted to the following aspects:
1. Education and consciousness-raising. A multitude of indicators point at the lack of awareness as regards our existential predicament among the general population. My hypothesis is that the reason for this is largely an insufficient understanding, especially on the direct emotional level, of what is at stake (not to mention plenty of ways to avoid having to think about it).
2. Means of connected mobilisation. Online social networks have become a central feature of our lives. These tools have been hailed by some as central to the development of new popular and democratic movements. However, when considering the multitude of grassroots initiatives that aim at creating positive social change on a particular topic, the lack of networks and other instruments specifically dedicated to federating such efforts is rather striking.

In the course of my research, I will be bringing together these two avenues of research, and thus, investigate how online networks may foster and enable collective mobilisation through learning.”

Jason Hocknell-Nickels is researching his practice as a values-based coach within the British civil service. He has created a website that chronicles his approach and findings, where he introduces his work as follows:

“Would you like to live well? By the term ‘well’ I personally don’t mean wealthy; although for you that might be part of what it means. By living ‘well’ I have in mind the idea of living authentically or living my values in real life and my professional practice. This is important to me because I work in complex change and transformation and being authentic helps my practice as a change coach. I am also interested in being authentic across my different life worlds or spaces. By this idea I mean that I desire to have a certain level of integrity in terms of my values. I am hoping that my values as actions-in-the-world can demonstrated across work, family, friends, as well as other voluntary work, and professional communities of practice, for example.
To these ends, I have decided to share my learning of the ways by which I live my life. I am hoping that I can create an account and then openly and honestly share the data that I will collect by way of evaluation. My intention is that my account will meet the criteria for a Doctorate in Living-Theory. You can read more about this approach to research here.

How do I evidence and learn from the ways by which I live my values in action? What values give rise to feelings of authenticity across my different life spaces? How do I learn? How do I communicate my learning to others?”

Our three new doctoral students add to the University’s engagement with key contemporary issues in ways that are interdisciplinary and use a variety of action research methods complemented by a philosophy of criticality. Given the significant international response to Professor Bendell's work on Deep Adaptation, he will begin a Critical Living Theory project on the practices of public intellectuals and forum convenors. Information on his engagements in 2019 is available here.

To reach the new doctoral researchers or their lead supervisor Prof Bendell, contact

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

IFLAS Open Lecture series - Spring 2019

Here at IFLAS we are delighted to announce the first three of the Spring/Summer series of Open Lectures.

On Tuesday 26th March we have the first Open Lecture in 2019:

Rob & Harriet Fraser: Making Sense of Here: Artful ways of reflecting on the Lake District National Park, a landscape of multiple truths.

What happens when you have a single place that’s celebrated internationally for its beauty and culture, yet has multiple and often conflicting land-use issues? Where is the common ground? How can creative practice and artful ways of thinking contribute to an appreciation of nature, and add to the debate about ways of finding balance in complex environments? Drawing on their work over the past seven years among environmental specialists, farmers and land managers, and their current project ‘Sense of Here’, Harriet and Rob put the Lake District under a ‘creative’ lens and invite you to join them on a provocative journey.

Writer Harriet Fraser and Photographer Rob Fraser work together as ‘somewhere-nowhere’. Their photography, poetry and installation work, which celebrates the beauty of nature while also exploring critical environmental issues, has been exhibited across the UK, and they work with schools and public groups with the aim of strengthening connections between people and nature. Their work frequently involves long walks and celebrates the value of slowing down and listening: meetings with experts across disciplines allows them to consider the complexity of place, and ranging from soil science to farming and forestry, environmental monitoring, hydrology and data analysis. There current project, ‘Sense of Here’, seeks out local views about the places we call home, and interconnectivity between different places, mindsets and visions for the future. Books include The Long View (shortlisted for Lakeland Book of the Year, 2018), Land Keepers and Meadow. More at

Then the next free-to-attend Open Lecture will be with Solitiare Townsend:

 How your good life goals can change the world

Individuals are as important as institutions when it comes to sustainability. For too long personal action has been neglected in the global climate and sustainability process, but with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), now calling for us all to change our behaviors to combat climate change, something is starting to shift.

Solitaire Townsend was the driving force behind the United Nations new Good Life Goals, a set of personal actions linked to each of the Sustainable Development Goals. She will explore the ways individuals can lever change at scale, and how people power is as important as powerful people to save the world.

Solitaire has been a passionate change-maker for over 30 years. As co-founder of Futerra she advises governments, charities and brands including Danone, Lancôme and Vodafone on imagining a better future, and making it happen. With Futerra offices in London, Stockholm, New York and Mexico City she admits that making the world a better place is a damn good business plan. You can watch her TEDx talks online and read her in the Guardian, Huffington Post, Forbes and more often as @GreenSolitaire. Solitaire was named ‘Ethical Entrepreneur of the Year’ in 2008 and more recently was Chair of the UK Green Energy Scheme, a member of the United Nations Sustainable Lifestyles Taskforce and a London Leader for Sustainability. Her new book The Happy Hero - How To Change Your Life By Changing The World is out now. 

Following on from this will be the third talk of the season, this time featuring Aimee Leslie:

Collaborating for Fisheries Sustainability: Perspectives from new research in Peru

Peru is mostly known for its industrial anchoveta fisheries, the biggest monospecific fisheries of the world. What people don’t know is that there are more than 44,000 artisanal fishers in Peru, and over 60% of them work in illegality. This means they have no fishing permit, no social security, there is no stock assessment of the populations they fish, continued illegal construction of new fishing vessels, and high levels of corruption in local fisheries authorities. WWF-Peru is collaborating with fishers to face these challenges by helping them set up fisheries cooperativas with sustainable business models, meet the legal requirements to get their fishing permits, denounce cases of corruption, and set up traceability systems. In this talk you will learn about about fisheries in Peru and the associated legal and sustainability challenges the sector faces, and what WWF is doing to try to address these challenges.

Aimée Leslie is doing a PhD in Leadership and Sustainability with the University of Lancaster and Cumbria. She has a Masters in Environmental Management from Costa Rica and a Masters in Education for Sustainable Development from Spain. She has been working for WWF for over 7 years, with WWF International as Global Cetacean and Marine Turtle Manager based out of Switzerland and as Director of WWF-Peru’s Marine Program since beginning of 2018. She is a member of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group, the IWC Scientific Committee, and the CMS Bycatch Working Group.

Each of these talks will take place at the Percival Lecture Theatre on our Ambleside campus on Tuesdays from 5.30pm and will finish around 7pm.

All of the above talks are completely free to attend, all that we ask is that you register by emailing us at stating which talk you wish to attend, along with your name, and the name of anyone else that you wish to bring along with you.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Post-Civilisation - IFLAS Occasional Paper 3

IFLAS is pleased that philosopher, Chair of Green House thinktank, and leading member of Extinction Rebellion, Dr Rupert Read has contributed our 3rd Occasional Paper.

Dr Read takes as his starting point the failure of political processes to respond to the challenges of dangerous man-made climate change that have been understood since the 1970s, arguing that the Paris agreements of 2015 are "absolutely nowhere near enough", and in any case stand "actually in stark contradiction to what [the countries] are actually planning to do".

The Occasional Paper is a referenced and edited version of a talk Dr Read gave at the University of Cambridge in 2018. In his estimation, what is required to 'get around' the current failure, is 'something completely unprecedented'. In the face of a total collapse of civilisation we can either talk about transforming our existing civilisation or building a new one out off the wreckage of the old. Whichever way, the civilisation we inhabit is finished: because if something survives from it, that something will be utterly different from what we are used to.

Those are themes he has explored elsewhere, but this talk was addressed especially to young people, such as students. He had a range of suggestions for them, starting with "Wake up!", starting a new honest conversation about our fears, and imagining a successor civilisation. We need to build lifeboats while implementing the 'holding actions' described by Joanna Macey to hold the damage at bay and slow it down. His final suggestion is to stop: to reflect rather than reacting only from anger or shock.

Along the way, Dr. Read positions his thinking in close relation to the “Deep Adaptation” paper of Prof. Jem Bendell’s, which was the 2nd IFLAS Occasional Paper. IFLAS issues Occasional Papers to stimulate wider and more rapid debate than is possible through peer-reviewed academic journal. Feedback is welcomed to inform revised papers for subsequent publication. To engage with others on these topics, consider the Deep Adaptation LinkedIn group. The latest thoughts from Prof Bendell are available via