No. 2 • November 2019


Selected research highlights

Flooded roadIVM’s Elco Koks is one of the authors of a recent article in Nature Communications, presenting a global multi-hazard risk analysis of road and railway infrastructure assets. The authors estimate that about 27% of all global road and railway assets are exposed to at least one hazard and some 7.5% of all assets are exposed to a 1/100 year flood event. Global Expected Annual Damages (EAD) due to direct damage to road and railway assets range from 3.1 to 22 billion US dollars, of which about 73% is caused by surface and river flooding. Global EAD are small relative to global GDP (some 0.02%). However, in some countries EAD reach 0.5 to 1% of GDP annually, which is the same order of magnitude as national transport infrastructure budgets. A cost-benefit analysis suggests that increasing flood protection would have positive returns on around 60% of roads exposed to a 1/100 year flood event.

Convention on Biological DiversityRecent scientific reports highlight the urgent need to stop biodiversity loss. Governments have failed to implement their commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), with dire consequences for the health of our planet. Ongoing negotiations for a new ‘global post-2020 strategy’ under the CBD present a window of opportunity to turn the tide. 

In a recent policy brief researchers from PBL (Marcel Kok) and IVM (Oscar Widerberg, Katarzyna Negacz, Cebuan Bliss, and Philipp Pattberg) suggest that a groundswell of cities, regions, companies, and civil society organizations could help ‘bend the curve’ on biodiversity loss. By mapping and analysing more than 300 international initiatives, they show that thousands of cities, regions, indigenous peoples and local communities, companies, and civil society organisations already engage in conservation and other biodiversity-related activities. Harnessing this ‘bottom-up’ movement could generate new momentum in the CBD negotiations. At this point, leadership is needed to take the process forward.

UrbanizationGlobal losses of natural area are primarily attributed to cropland expansion, whereas the role of urban expansion is considered minor. However, urban expansion can induce cropland displacement, potentially leading to a loss of forest elsewhere. The extent of this effect is unknown. A recent article in Nature Sustainability by IVM’s Jasper van Vliet shows that indirect forest losses, through cropland displacement, far exceed direct losses from urban expansion. On a global scale, urban land increased from 33.2 to 71.3 million hectares (Mha) between 1992 and 2015, leading to a direct loss of 3.3 Mha of forest and an indirect loss of 17.8 to 32.4 Mha. In addition, this urban expansion led to a direct loss of 4.6 Mha of shrubland and an indirect loss of 7.0 to 17.4 Mha. Guiding urban development towards more sustainable trajectories can thus help preserve forest and other natural area at a global scale.

Photo: Natuurmonumenten
With the ‘Dream Fund’ project (in Dutch: Droomfondsproject) Haringvliet six Dutch nature organizations invest in Haringvliet’s nature, landscape and recreational infrastructure with the idea that a simultaneous improvement of the natural environment of Haringvliet and its recreational use benefits the local economy and regional quality of life. In a study estimating the effects for People, Planet and Profit, the Institute for Environmental Studies, Blueconomy and Wageningen University jointly conclude that improvements in the natural environment, better recreational opportunities and a more open dam system in the Haringvliet are beneficial for nature and people.

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Education news

Blue lagoon St MaartenThe Simpson Bay Lagoon – a Caribbean gem, hub of commerce and activity, and environmental disaster zone all at once – has been the focus of three master students in the ERM (Environment and Resource Management) course. They worked together to research the value of one of the largest inland lagoons in the Caribbean from various angles: social, environmental and economic. Anne Molenaar, Anna Fralikhina and Sem Duijndam reported their findings in their final theses and graduated on 16 September, together with some 50 other ERM students.

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Summer schoolThe IVM Summer Course ‘Energy Transition in a Fossil World’, held from 8 to 19 July 2019, was attended by a broad mix of students from all over the world with an interest in energy transition as well as by practitioners with a long-standing career in energy issues. Guest lecturers and IVM speakers gave the participants a broad overview of all key aspects of the global energy transition, varying from social and geopolitical issues to technical and economic insights. A variety of work forms assured that the participants did not only receive information, but could also apply it in practice. The four excursions, to Shell, Friends of the Earth Netherlands, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate and to the Amsterdam Energy Cooperative Zuiderlicht, were highly appreciated by the participants.

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Featured recent publications

Englhardt, J., de Moel, H., Huyck, C.K., de Ruiter, M.C., Aerts, J.C.J.H. & Ward, P.J. (2019). Enhancement of large-scale flood risk assessments using building-material-based vulnerability curves for an object-based approach in urban and rural areas. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 19, 1703–1722.

Hickmann, T., Widerberg, O., Lederer, M. & Pattberg, P. (2019). The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat as an orchestrator in global climate policymaking. International Review of Administrative Sciences. 

Hwang, I.C., Tol, R.S.J. & Hofkes, M.W. (2019). Active Learning and Optimal Climate Policy. Environmental and Resource Economics, 73(4), 1237–1264. 

Kiruki, H., van der Zanden, E.H., Zagaria, C. & Verburg, P.H. (2019). Sustainable woodland management and livelihood options in a charcoal producing region: An agent-based modelling approach. Journal of Environmental Management, 248, 109245. 

Koks, E.E., Rozenberg, J., Zorn, C., Tariverdi, M., Vousdoukas, M., Fraser, S.A., ... Hallegatte, S. (2019). A global multi-hazard risk analysis of road and railway infrastructure assets. Nature Communications, 10, 2677.

Malek, Z., Douw, B., van Vliet, J., van der Zanden, E. & Verburg, P.H. (2019). Local land-use decision-making in a global context. Environmental Research Letters, 14(8). 

Morrison, T.H., Adger, W.N., Brown, K., Lemos, M.C., Huitema, D., Phelps, J., ... Hughes, T.P. (2019). The black box of power in polycentric environmental governance. Global Environmental Change, 57, 1–8.

Orsini, A., LePrestre, P., Haas, P., Brosig, M., Pattberg, P.H., Widerberg, O.E., ... Chandler, D. (2019). Complex Systems and International Governance. International Studies Review

Pfleiderer, P., Schleussner, C.-F., Kornhuber, K. & Coumou, D. (2019). Summer weather becomes more persistent in a 2 °C world. Nature Climate Change, 9, 666–671.

Robinson, P.J. & Botzen, W. (2019). Economic experiments, hypothetical surveys and market data studies of insurance demand against low‐probability/high‐impact risks: A systematic review of designs, theoretical insights and determinants of demand. Journal of Economic Surveys.

Schrodt, F., Bailey, J.J., Kissling, W.D., Rijsdijk, K.F., Seijmonsbergen, A.C., van , D. Ree, Hjort, J., Lawley, R.S., Williams, C.N., Anderson, M.G., P. Beier, van Beukering, P., …, Field, R. (2019). Opinion: To advance sustainable stewardship, we must document not only biodiversity but geodiversity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(33), 16155–16158.

Verburg, P.H., Alexander, P., Evans, T., Magliocca, N.R., Malek, Z., Rounsevell, M.D.A. & van Vliet, J. (2019). Beyond land cover change: towards a new generation of land use models. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 38, 77–85.

IVM in the spotlight

CoumouIn the wake of record breaking summer temperatures, IVM’s Dim Coumou explained the link between climate change and the pronounced increases in heat waves around the globe, among others on Dutch television and in the New York Times.

Staff and organisation news

Sem Duijndam joined the Environmental Economics (EE) section as a junior researcher. He will mainly work on the CLAIM project (on solutions for marine plastic pollution).

Bianca Vermeer also joined EE as a PhD student. She will be working on the NEWCOMERS project (on new clean energy communities).

Marije Schaafsma returned to IVM’s EE section. She already worked at IVM as an environmental economist between 2005 and 2010, and has meanwhile held positions in the UK at the Universities of East Anglia, Cambridge and Southampton.

Cornelia Fast joined the Environmental Policy Analysis (EPA) section as a junior researcher for the ACTS research project (Action for Climate Transformation in Sweden).

Xiaoran Li is a new PhD student in EPA. She will study China’s new role in governing global climate change, and especially its multi-level climate governance situated at different policy levels.

Sadhana Nirandjan started as a PhD researcher at the Water and Climate Risk (WCR) section. Her research will focus on the risks of coastal flooding on critical infrastructure along the European coast. 

Paolo De Luca started at WCR as a postdoc position, funded by the TiPES project. The focus of his research will be understanding the causes, mechanisms and impacts of tipping points and associated extremes in the Earth’s system, with a focus over the Mediterranean.

Iris Manola also returned to IVM (WCR section). She worked at IVM already as a postdoctoral researcher between 2015 and 2017. She is now working on LAMACLIMA project and she aims to investigate how land cover changes influence large scale atmospheric variability, using climate models.

Rhian Ebrey is a new junior researcher in WCR. She is working on climate adaptation modelling, focussing on biodiversity and city models. She is also supporting the coordination of the master’s programme Global Environmental Change and Policy.

Raed Hamed also joined as a PhD student at WCR. His research will focus on climate risks for global agricultural production and consequences for the European economy.

Leen Felix joined the Environmental Geography (EG) section as a PhD student on the Terranova project. Her research topic is ‘Trade-offs between culture and nature in landscape development’.

Vita Bakker also joined EG as a PhD student. She will be working on the project ‘Guiding human settlements towards sustainable development’.

In January 2020, IVM will be moving to a new office on Vrije Universiteit campus. Our new premises will be in the brand new ‘NU’ building, on the 8th floor. Sustainable building materials, maximum energy and water efficiency and a green roof are among the building’s key features.

NU building

Prizes, awards and grants

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) has awarded Jeroen Aerts the Gilbert F. White award in recognition of his original contributions to the natural hazards and disaster risks field. Sanne Muis is a recipient of the Natural Hazards Focus Group Award for Graduate Research.

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A poster by Jantsje Mol, Wouter Botzen, Julia Blasch and Hans de Moel was nominated for the ‘best poster award’ at the 2019 SPUDM (Subjective Probability, Utility, and Decision Making) conference. The topic of the poster is ‘Insights into flood risk misperceptions of homeowners’.

KoksElco Koks has been awarded a prestigious Veni grant, funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO). Elco will use the € 250,000 grant to work on improving resilience of global trade to climate extremes.

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Jeroen van den Bergh received an honorary doctorate from The Open University of the Netherlands (OU), in recognition of his pioneering contributions to the debate about environmental policy which relies on profound insights obtained by combining elements from behavioral and evolutionary economics with environmental economics. The honorary doctorate was conferred on 26 September 2019, during the celebration of the OU’s 35th anniversary.

At the Foodvalley Summit ‘The Protein Plan(et)’ in Wageningen a ‘Green Protein Lifetime Achievement Award’ was granted to IVM’s Harry Aiking

Aiking's achievement award

Upcoming events

Friday, 15 November 2019, 11:45h, Aula Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam: PhD defence Gabriela Guimarães Nobre. Thesis title: ‘Floods, droughts and climate variability’.