Ethics in Climate and Development

Our Research Projects

Supporting Just Response and Recovery to COVID-19 in Informal Urban Settlements

The project works with the organisation Slum Dwellers International and its Youth Federation members in six Sub-Saharan African cities to understand inequalities and injustices associated with COVID-19 impacts and policy responses in informal urban settlements. The project will facilitate the creation of a series of video-diaries informed by ethical analysis, co-designed and produced with youth groups in the cities, which will provide the foundation for research articles and policy briefs to be shared with local authorities. The project is funded by the AHRC GCRF (PI Keith Hyams, £135,689).

The COVID Observatories: Monitoring the interaction of pandemics, climate risks, and food systems

Indigenous Peoples are believed to be at particularly high risk from COVID, exacerbated by climate risks and socio-economic stresses. There is emerging evidence that national responses to the pandemic are compounding the vulnerability of Indigenous Peoples, exacerbated by little—if any—understanding on the unique pathways through which COVID will affect them. This project addresses this knowledge and policy gap by documenting, monitoring, and examining how COVID is interacting with multiple stresses to affect the food systems of Indigenous Peoples globally, co-creating knowledge and capacity to strengthen resilience. The project works with 20 Indigenous peoples in 13 countries. It is led by the University of Leeds and is funded by the UKRI GCRF and Newton Fund (PI James Ford, £508,586).

Inserting Ethics into Adaptation and Resilience Policy

The project is a collaboration with the University of Cape Town and with Cape Town city’s climate adaptation department to look at how issues of ethics and justice can be incorporated into responses to climate-related risks. Cape Town has already come perilously close to a city-wide drought and regularly suffers from flooding: the project seeks to ensure that the most vulnerable communities such as informal settlements are incorporated in an ethical manner into city-level protection plans. By doing so, it aims to model a pathway to inserting ethics into adaptation and resilience policy that can be utilised in other settings. The project is funded by the AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund (PI Keith Hyams, £147,773).

Technological Risks in Development

Food insecurity poses a major risk to human lives and well-being in the Global South, especially in the face of climate change. In this project, we investigate how technologies that have been introduced as solutions to food insecurity have contributed to the creation of new risks, and ask how such technologies should might be governed ethically to reduce these risks. We focus on the loss of biodiversity as a result of the introduction of GMO crops, and the rise of antimicrobial resistance as a result of the overuse of antibiotics to combat communicable diseases in crops and livestock. The project is funded by the British Academy and is a collaboration between the University of Warwick, CABI, and the University of Nairobi (PI Keith Hyams, £199,336).

New Approaches to Equitable Resilience

A variety of behavioural and structural factors impact individuals’ ability to think and act in resilient ways. Based on field research in Kenya, the first aim of this project is to shed new light on key psychological factors that drive resilience, and determine whether this information can facilitate predictive modelling of resilient behaviour. The second aim of the project is to understand the ethical implications of individual differences in resilient behaviour. For example, are there reasons to direct particular attention and resources to those who, by virtue of psychological characteristics, do not easily adopt resilient behaviours? The project is a collaboration between Warwick and the Busara Centre for Behavioural Economics, Kenya, and is funded by the Royal Academy for Engineering (PI Keith Hyams, £19,935).

Challenging Inequalities: An Indo-European Perspective

Challenging Inequalities is an interdisciplinary collaboration across humanities and social sciences, with participants from India, UK, France and Norway. The project seeks to integrate cutting edge philosophical work on the salient ethical dimensions of inequality with social scientific approaches, both quantitative and qualitative, to measuring and addressing inequality in international development contexts. It examines inequality from three different perspectives. First, the project addresses how inequality should be defined and measured. Second, the project looks at attitudes to inequality and inequality-reducing policies. Third, the project investigates the experience of inequality and looks at the effects of inequality on livelihoods and policy interventions. The project is funded in the UK by the ESRC (PI Nicolas Gravel, £850,664).

Future Politics

Over the coming decades, the worsening effects of climate and ecosystem breakdown will threaten livelihoods around the globe. At the same time, advances in emerging technology like artificial intelligence and biotechnology will transform the security and economic landscape. Future Politics explores the political and psychological underpinnings of effective, ethical governance that can meet the challenges posed by global catastrophic risk. The project is funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the University of Warwick (PI Keith Hyams, £189,985).

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Urban Violence and Climate Change

The two challenges of urban violence and of climate change adaptation for urban development in the Global South have been of increasing concern to the humanitarian, security, and development communities. But these two challenges have so far been treated in parallel, without a strong analytic basis for understanding the interlinkages between the two, and implications for policy interventions in both fields. The aim of the project is to develop new understanding about the interactions between urban violence and climate change risks in urban areas of the Global South. Climate and development policy in areas of urban violence raises a number of difficult ethical questions about legitimacy and authority, and about the ethics of working with ‘gangs’, which are at the core of the project. The project is funded by the ESRC and includes partner researchers and policymakers at the University of Nottingham and in Brazil, Pakistan, Honduras, Kenya and Sudan ((1) PI Keith Hyams, £19,910; (2) PI Arabella Fraser, £150,000).

The Politics of Papua Project

The Politics of Papua Project at the University of Warwick conducts research and provides informed political analysis to policymakers, in order to facilitate a peaceful resolution to the conflict in West Papua. We collaborate with researchers around the world, including at the Papuan Cenderawasih University. Our research has been endorsed by several policymakers and politicians, including the Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP. We have received funding from the ESRC, the Warwick Impact Fund, and the Global Partnerships Fund (PI Keith Hyams, £46,567).

Since 1969, West Papua has been part of Indonesia. However, a movement in West Papua led by Indigenous Papuans asserts an ongoing right to self-determination, based on evidence that the so-called ‘Act of Free Choice’ consultation by which West Papua was incorporated into Indonesia was coercive and did not meet international standards. The ongoing conflict in the region, between the Indonesian military and Indigenous Papuans, is estimated to have killed at least a hundred thousand Papuans. Concerns have been expressed about human rights violations and lack of media access to the region. Our aim is to provide informed and rigorous academic analysis, in collaboration with Papuan and other researchers, that can help all parties move closer to a peaceful and sustainable resolution of the conflict, and to help build institutions to support development in West Papua. To this end, the project has a strong practical focus, engaging closely with British and International MPs and other policy-makers in order to best inform future decision-making on the issue.

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Improving Earth Systems Governance through Purpose Ecosystems

Business as usual is pushing the planet to the brink of environmental disaster: biodiversity is being lost at mass-extinction rates, agricultural systems are under strain and pollution of the air and sea has become an increasingly pressing threat to human health. Coupled with climate change, rising inequality and entrenched poverty, these interconnected sustainability issues are triggering social instability and conflict. Yet incremental approaches to pursuing sustainability are insufficient for delivering change at the speed and scale necessary. The aim of this project was to investigate the role and agency of purpose ecosystems in contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Earth System Governance. The project brought together researchers in Earth System Governance, equity, purpose ecosystems, sustainability and climate change. It developed a long term collaborative hub for future research and engagement based at the University of Warwick and the University of Monash, which jointly funded the project (PI Fred Dahlmann, £27,268).

Why We Disagree about Resilience

The concept of resilience is increasingly used in urban planning and disaster risk reduction. While resilience may appear consensual to some, disagreements exist regarding what urban resilience should look like. Some approaches to resilience focus on infrastructure and materials, whereas other approaches are more inclusive of social and environmental concerns. WhyDAR identified different ways in which urban resilience is understood while investigating the role of science, technology, ethics and expertise in the making of resilience strategies in the Global South. It examined key ethical questions arising from disagreement about conceptions to resilience, and asked what an equitable approach to resilience would look like in the face of this disagreement. The project was funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (ESRC, AHRC and NERC) and was a collaboration between the University of Warwick, Kings College London, the University of Cape Town, Christian Aid (Philippines), and Konkuey Design Initiative (Kenya) (PI Mark Pelling, £199,680).

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Remedying Injustice in Indigenous Climate Adaptation Planning

Indigenous communities are especially vulnerable to risks associated with climate change, yet their voices are often marginalised in climate adaptation planning. This project investigated ethics and equity aspects of the relationship between indigenous communities, climate change, and adaptation policies, bringing together both philosophical and social scientific research. It asked how adaptation policies that integrate indigenous voices into climate adaptation planning can work to reduce the unequal and inequitable distribution of climate impacts on indigenous populations. The project worked closely with collaborators at Makerere University and the Indigenous Health Adaptation to Climate Change research network, and included fieldwork with Batwa Indigenous communities in South West Uganda. The project was funded by a British Academy Research Grant (PI Keith Hyams, £49,984).

Read our policy report 'Remedying Injustice in Indigenous Climate Adaptation Planning'.

Tackling Climate-related Health Risks in Urban Slums: an Interdisciplinary Analysis of the Challenge of Integrating Local and Scientific Knowledges

Many urban populations in the Global South live in slums with poor access to sanitation and clean drinking water. Changes to the local and global climate threaten to exacerbate these health risks; flooding increases exposure to infectious diseases, while droughts threaten food supplies. To help these challenges, this project developed a new framework for integrating different knowledges in the context of climate-related health risks in slums. We combined philosophical analysis of the concept of expertise, empirical research in Zambia on traditional ecological knowledge, and medical knowledge of urban slum health. The project was funded by the British Academy and was a collaboration between the University of Warwick (PAIS – lead; medical sciences), the University of Leeds (Priestley International Centre for Climate), and the University of Zambia (Geography and Environmental Sciences) (PI Keith Hyams, £50,000).