Professor Neil Adger
Professor of Human Geography


Research interests

My goal is to promote deep social science analysis of the challenges of global environmental change drawing on a range of social science theories, such as political economy as well as theories of decision-making and risk. I seek to promote theoretically-informed social science and develop strong empirical evidence in specific areas and to promote interdisciplinary dialogues on environmental challenges.

I have published articles that have been widely cited on adaptation to climate change; the nature and implications of vulnerability to climate change; contributions to resilience theory; ecological and institutional economics; and the political economy of the environment. Citations to articles can be followed though a profile on Google Scholar.

Research projects

Adaptation to climate change

The world is in the throes of confronting the reality of climate change. It has altered the landscape of risk and is likely to alter the economic and human geography of every part of the world in the coming decades. Hence I have sought to develop insights into the social processes that deal with these risks. Some of this work is published in a book, Adapting to Climate Change: Thresholds, Values, Governance resulting from five years of work as leader of the Adaptation Theme within the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. I have sought to elaborate how extreme events and risks interact to produce adaptation action, showing that the evolution of social contracts is a potential mechanism for such change, published in a paper in Nature Climate Change.

Sustainability, resilience and vulnerability of social-ecological systems

Resilience theories and applications across the natural and social sciences offer a significant potential to explain how change occurs in a globalizing and uncertain world. I collaborate with colleagues in the Resilience Alliance on research, and we organize the Exeter node of the Alliance, with Katrina Brown of the Environment and Sustainability Institute. We have applied resilience theories to assess whether present adaptation strategies to climate change promote system resilience, in a paper in WIREs Climate Change, and have sought to examine cultural dimensions to resilience and adaptation – with these papers in Global Environmental Politics and Nature Climate Change.

Migration in response to environmental change

One of the major responses to environmental change has been the movement of people, settlements and investments – the evidence is around us in how and where we live. Migration is as natural as breathing. I have contributed to the emerging reconsideration of migration and environmental change that seeks to refocus analysis and policy away from displacement (as one specific issue in migration-environment relations to a broader analysis of the role of mobility and migration in dealing with environmental change. Early work focused on resilience of migrants’ livelihoods, funded by the MacArthur Foundation, and published in Ambio. Recently I have been a member of the Lead Expert Group and author of the UK Foresight report, Migration and Global Environmental Change. Work in Bangladesh, as part of ESPA Deltas with Helen Adams seeks to examine the interaction of mobility with ecosystem services.

Current Grants and Funding:

Safe and Sustainable Cities: Human Security, Migration and Well-being

ESRC-DFID funded research on integration of new migrant populations into planning and sustainabilty, focussed on the coastal city of Chittagong in Bangladesh.

Deltas and Adaptation to Climate Change

DFID-IDRC funded research on migration and climate change in the world's deltas, working in Ghana, Bangladesh and India.

Environmental Change and Health: Health Protection Research Unit

National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funded research on health and well-being mpacts of climate resilience, focussed on flood risks and outcomes.


Recently completed (2012-2017):

Winter floods and policy change

ESRC funded research on policy evolution following the major floods in the UK in winter 2013/14

Assessing health, livelihoods, ecosystem services and poverty alleviation in populous deltas.
Funded by NERC/ESRC/DFID Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation programme (with Universities of Southampton, Oxford, Dundee; Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and Plymouth Marine Laboratory) 2012-2016.
Part of the Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation Programme

Climate Change, Hydro-Conflicts and Human Security (CLICO).
Funded by EU FP7 (with Autonomous University of Barcelona). 2010-2013. See the project website

Climate and Security International Workshop.
Funded by Department of Energy and Climate Change, British Council, Paris, and the French Department of Defense. (with Sciences Po, Paris, and Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington DC). 2012.

Strengthening Resilience in Volcanic Areas (STREVA).
Funded by NERC/ESRC Resilience and Natural Hazards Programme. (led by University of East Anglia). 2012-2016.

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