Detailed WP3 description

WP3. Human-environmental interaction: perception, adaptation and mitigation 

Leaders: Olivier Chanel (GREQAM), Sylvie Thoron (GREQAM)

Work package description

Human activity, along with physical forcings must be considered as a driver of global environmental change. It was called for a new, strongly interdisciplinary, system of global environmental sciences RESCUE. Ostrom’s work has emphasized the importance of local governance, interests, education, practices and perspectives (“think globally, act locally”). Costanza’s work has shown the dangers for resilience if the limits of the social and environmental capacities are exceeded. The past is full of examples of civilization collapses, but the role of history as a laboratory for the future is frequently overlooked. This is also true at the individual level.

OT-Med will organise research around the evaluation of environmental risks and the vulnerability of resulting natural and social systems, as well as around research towards management solutions favouring greater adaptability and resilience, especially with regards climate change. Three main research areas will be explored.

  1. At the individual level, decision-making in the context of natural catastrophes is going to be studied using new tools, especially the impact of emotions on the willingness to reduce individual and collective risk exposures.
  2. At the society/national level, the ability of past Mediterranean societies to adapt to climate change depending on their decision making mode (collective, centralized, hierarchical etc.) and their mode of collecting and exploiting information in a learning process.
  3. At the international level, international regimes have been established in an attempt to resolve environmental problems as they are identified. The Mediterranean Basin provides a very interesting fulcrum to analyze normative and institutional innovations, multilevel governance, legal interrelations, science-policy relationships and to assess the effectiveness of international regimes.

Drawing lessons from the past, OT-Med has designed an interdisciplinary project to analyse the processes through which societies adapt or fail to adapt to climate change, by using the experience of ancient societies to calibrate an agent-based model. The social sciences provide necessary information to model human behaviour, while environmental sciences provide climate information that affects crop yields. Finally, archaeology provides information on the dynamics of settlement patterns in the eastern Mediterranean area (from 6000 yrs ago) against which the outcome of the model can be validated. An important (and risky) question is: how does the evolution of ancient societies help to understand the adaptive capacity of modern ones? This is the objective of the project AMENOPHYS (click here to download a short description of this project).

In the field of law, the comparative study of two types of governance of environmental regimes for climate and biodiversity is a source of important knowledge. OT-Med proposes to analyse these two fields’ governance while it is actually being built, to understand political, social and environmental effects. This implies the adoption of a multi-scalar approach that combines the analysis of international regimes, transnational networks of actors, and the implementation of policies at both the local and national scales.

Other actions

Actions Description Collaborations/ programs
Modelling decision-making in context of risks (1) explain the choices of individuals among alternatives involving catastrophic events, use experimental economics to explore the role of emotions in decision-making, (2) apply two surveys: people living in PACA (exposed and non-exposed to major flood risks, with or without everyday risky behaviour), students in an experimental economic room, (3) help the public decision-maker to formulate an adapted risk management strategy and propose adapted tools to reduce social vulnerability to catastrophic events GREQAM, Coll. Univ. Columbia, Paris I, Project ANR RISKEMOTION
Capacities of societies to adapt to climatic change (1) collect data about past Mediterranean civilizations (archaeological sites in Crete, Egypt and the Near East), (2) build an agent-based model (ABM) to relate the organization of societies and their capacity to adapt (see TWP2), (3) use climate simulations and agriculture models to feed the ABM and produce answers about the capacity of societies to adapt to important climatic changes GREQAM, CEREGE, IMBE, Coll. ECOLAB, Toulouse, Project AMENOPHYS, PALEOMEX
Compared functioning of international environmental regimes for climate and biodiversity (1) study the governance of these international environmental regimes, (2) explore the new and promising notion of regime complex, (3) study proposals to create a World Organization for the Environment, (4) evaluation of the regional marine program, consequences of new European marine policy, conservation of fishery resources, expertise and experts, legal approach of oil platforms etc. CERIC, Coll. Science Po Bordeaux, Paris XIII, IDDRI, Project CORECLIMBIO
Improved management of ecosystems for conservation and sustainable delivery of ecosystem services (1) manage protected areas to enhance connectivity, thereby the natural dynamics of communities may continue, (2) even under a scenario with changing environmental boundary conditions, (3) maintain close contact with stakeholders in environmental decision making at public and private levels, (4) participation to the implementation of the European Framework-Directives (marine, water), (5) develop tools of broad-scale assessments for alternative management options of production systems (agriculture, forests, fisheries) for sustainable provisioning of ecosystem services, (6) analyse scenarios of shifts towards more organic agriculture, less intensive rangeland management or widespread plantation of renewable energy crops, marine management systems IMBE, MIO, GREQAM, DESMID, ECODEV