Courting catastrophe? Humanitarian policy and practice in a changing climate

Climate change is expected to cause an increase in extreme events such as droughts, floods and cyclones. Traditional humanitarian assistance has primarily focused on short-term relief and recovery in the immediate aftermath of such disasters. However, this approach neither addresses underlying causes of vulnerability nor sufficiently supports adaptation to a changing climate. New and innovative thinking is needed to link short-term emergency responses to longer-term sustainable adaptation. In particular, how can vulnerable groups, with their often rich local knowledge on climate adaptation, be empowered in their interactions with humanitarian interventions and thus influence the way response and prevention is conceived and performed? What are the potential synergies between immediate actions to reduce human suffering in disasters and the longer-term actions that are required to reduce vulnerability and prevent crises from recurring? And how can humanitarian actors make sense of complex climate and vulnerability contexts in operational decisions before, during and after a crisis?

The main research objective of this project is to critically examine the scope and practical ways in which humanitarian responses may contribute to adaptation to climate change. It draws on experiences and lessons from six countries in Africa and Asia including Ethiopia, Kenya, Zambia, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Based on findings from the six case study countries, the project seeks to develop guidelines for humanitarian policy and interventions that can contribute positively to climate change adaptation.

“Courting catastrophe? Humanitarian policy and practice in a changing climate” is a four-year collaborative and interdisciplinary research project, commenced in late 2012. The research project is led by the Department for International Development and Environment (Noragric), at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU). The project is funded by the Research Council of Norway, through the NORGLOBAL programme.

For further information, visit the Project website.


Project leaders: 

Siri Eriksen (Noragric, NMBU) (Maternity leave)

Lutgart Lenaerts (Noragric, NMBU) (Substitute)


Project members:

Ingrid Nyborg (Noragric, NMBU)

Ruth Haug (Noragric, NMBU)

Andrei Marin (Noragric, NMBU)

Marianne Mosberg (Noragric, NMBU)


External project partners:

Lars Otto Næss (Institute of Development Studies)

Jeremy Lind (Institute of Development Studies)

Terry Cannon (Institute of Development Studies)

Pablo Suarez (The Red Cross/ Red Crescent Climate Centre)

Bahadar Nawab Khattak (COMSATS Institute of Information Technology)

Fetien Abera Abay (Mekelle University)

Teklehaymanot Geremeskel (Mekelle University)

Mesele Abera (Mekelle University)

The Development Fund

Norwegian Red Cross

Nepal Institute of Development Studies (NIDS)

Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)



Norwegian Church Aid

Social Policy and Development Centre