Diana Liverman

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Research Interests

Climate and Poverty

I’ve been interested in climate vulnerability and impacts on the poor for most of my professional career, working with a series of projects, including many graduate student dissertations in both North and South America.  Recently I have also become interested in the impacts of climate policies – both emission reductions and adaptation – on different groups in society.

Several current students (Gigi Owen, Christina Greene, Mimi Gay) are working on discourses and embodiments of climate change and the poor or otherwise disadvantaged in Tucson, California and Mexico.

Environmental Governance and Political Ecology

While the work on poverty and climate engages with questions of governance I have some broader interests in earth system governance and environmental governance in Mexico and the US-Mexico border region.  I have been affiliated with the ICSU Earth System Governance project since they wrote their science plan and have also worked with  international groups that have been thinking about Planetary Boundaries and about governance in the Anthropocene.  You can see some of our work under my publications.  I recently wrote a review article on political ecology and climate governance – I tend to work both with the earth scientists (playing a general role as social scientist) and from more critical perspectives.  A decade ago I did a fair bit of theoretical and empirical work on the environmental impacts of neoliberalism in Latin America and NAFTA on the border.  I am working on a retrospective of NAFTA which asks whether environmental concerns expressed in the 1990s have come to pass.

Climate Assessment and Climate Services

As a former contributor to IPCC, advisor to NOAA and UKCIP, panel chair for the America’s Climate Choices Informing report and member of the US National Climate Assessment Advisory Committee I have a major research interest in the assessment and communication of climate science to stakeholders and the public.  The funded collaborative projects I have with Jonathan and Julie Cole on  drought and abrupt climate change and with Jim on climate forecasting  both seek to use the full range of social science methods and methodology to evaluate how to best communicate  climate to decision makers.  I have also been working on how to improve collaboration and communication between natural and social scientist on global change.   I have also been studying and writing about the need to study climate impacts on the broader economy including manufacturing and services  and the importance of understanding climate impacts in global contexts.   For example most regions now depend on global supply chain and on prices determined in a globalized economy.

 Climate Adaptation

My work on climate adaptation includes several years as chair of the global environmental change and food systems (GECAFS) project –  which was one of the  seeds for the CGIAR  climate change  agriculture and food  security project.   I’ve actually been working on climate and agriculture  for much longer –  beginning with the crop modeling work I did as a graduate student and my doctorate on climate change and  the world food system.    I am also interested in the international governance of adaptation.   I am one of the founders  of the University of Arizona Center for climate adaptation science and solutions (CCASS) which brings together all of us working on climate adaptation under the leadership of Kathy Jacobs.

Finding my public voice

In 2014 I was fortunate to be selected as a Tucson fellow for the national op-ed public voices project which seeks to increase the number of women who  contribute to the media.   Fellows are heavily mentored  and edited to produce and submit short pieces  for the media.   So far I have written pieces on climate change in Southwest, climate and the economy, climate and conflict, optimistic environmental teaching, and connections between feelings for dogs and wolves.


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