Climate change and hydrological risk – a humanitarian engineering perspective

June 1, 2021 |
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Climate change and hydrological risk – a humanitarian engineering perspective

9 June 2021 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Location: Climate Change Research Centre, Seminar Room, Mathews Building 4th floor, UNSW, Sydney.
Presenter: Dr. Fiona Johnson (Water Research Centre, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering – UNSW Sydney).
Host: Climate Change Research Centre.

Communities across the Global South have adapted to floods, droughts and cyclones over many generations. However anthropogenic climate change is expected to further increase these environmental pressures. Coupled with general trends of increasing urbanisation and large populations living in informal settlements, it is vital to address current and hydrological risk in these communities. Any associated engineering response needs to consider cultural, societal and historical context, and prioritise the agency of local communities to determine their preferred outcomes. It follows, that Humanitarian Engineering, a discipline centred around strengths-based and context appropriate solutions, has an important role to play in climate change adaptation. In this review, I will talk about the interplay between hydroclimatology, geography and water security in a number of case studies and discuss methods to consider projected climate shifts in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals. I will discuss the intersection between disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation, along with the societal factors that present challenges and opportunities for Humanitarian Engineers is given. Finally, actions are recommended to inform climate change adaptation given the scientific uncertainty around hydrologic risks, and outline lessons for best-practice Humanitarian Engineering. Enhancing data sharing, building resilience to climate variability and integrating traditional knowledge with conventional engineering methods should be key areas of focus.

Brief Biography: Fiona Johnson is an Associate Professor at the University of New South Wales based in the Water Research Centre, in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. She has over 20 years’ experience in hydrology working as a consultant, for government and in academia. Associate Professor Johnson’s areas of research and teaching focus on statistical hydrology, particularly with respect to flooding and extreme events and the use of global climate models for climate change assessments of water resources systems. She has a particular interest in solutions to climate and hydrological challenges faced by communities in the Global South and is currently undertaking research projects in South East Asia, the Pacific and Australia.


Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC)
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Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC)
4th Floor, Matthews Building, UNSW
Kensington, NSW 2052 Australia
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