Institute for Environmental Futures

Research areas

Our research is organised into five research challenges.

Habitable earth


This challenge aims to develop a transdisciplinary understanding of how food, water, climate and energy systems correlate and interact in a rapidly changing and increasingly unstable world. Our research involves the study of multiple environmental hazards and the relationships between them. We also work with communities and stakeholders across the globe on prevention, mitigation and restoration options. Our modelling and monitoring work, for example our research into the importance of peatlands, contributes towards the net zero carbon target for land use and forestry.

Environmental justice and natures of exclusion


Environmental relations and change pose major challenges in relation to justice, social inclusivity, and peoples’ sense of who they are and what they want to do and be. Environmental transformations, including climate change, are often driven by the activities of particular social groups and relations, whilst their impacts frequently fall disproportionally on other human and non-human populations and environments. Such inequalities in responsibility, agency and impact raise important issues of social, and indeed, multi-species justice. The voices, identities and understandings surrounding these changes and injustices are diverse, encompassing far more than is recognised in the dualisms of, say, climate change acceptance and denial. They are also often given unequal opportunities for expression and realisation within action. In relation for climate change, for example, technocratic, neoliberal, traditional-masculinist and neo-colonial discourses often dominate, whilst indigenous, radical and socially marginalised voices that can bring valuable perspectives are frequently disadvantaged within the public debate.

Against this background, we seek to undertake inter-/trans-disciplinary research that spans local and global issues and processes. Our research, for example, brings together arts, humanities and social science research with Earth Observation satellite data and biophysical measurements of past climates using stable isotopes and pollen records.

Through employing a diversity of approaches and methods we will:

  1. learn from and about diverse and silent/silenced ways of living in past and present;
  2. develop conceptual understandings of environmental (in)justice that encompass human and more-than-human diversity;
  3. investigate injustices associated with environment transitions, including Net Zero, nature recovery and climate change adaptation, and how more just transitions may be established;
  4. study climate sceptics and deniers, and how they have proliferated and boosted their advocacy in recent years;
  5. examine how various actors and networks mobilise and communicate specific identities, practices and politics through constructions of nature and environment, and how these act to foster, obstruct or oppose environmental justices and injustices; and
  6. inform environmental policies and practices by understanding their role in fostering, challenging and correcting human and more-than-human injustices.

Environmental change and loss


The impacts of climate change, as well as mitigation and adaptation actions, transform the biophysical environment, buildings and landscapes. This challenge works across the arts, social sciences, humanities, environmental and life sciences to derive evidence for ‘loss and damage’ caused by environmental change. Our aim is to explore solutions that can inform future narratives and policies. We use citizen science approaches to empower people to contribute to the understanding and management of their changing environment in partnership with local, national and international organisations.

Climate risks


This challenge addresses disaster risk in terms of climate change, pollution, poverty, vulnerability, and in/direct disaster deaths. Pioneering research on hazards, exposures, vulnerability and risks underpins the development of improved disaster risk governance models and environmental solutions. We aim to develop evidence-based lifesaving tools, kits, interventions, innovative technologies and theories to capture and reduce avoidable direct and indirect deaths and diseases. We strive to build the capacity of disaster responders and other stakeholders such as industries through training courses, knowledge exchange, public engagement webinars and symposia.

Our research includes, for example, novel approaches for the mining industry to extract metals from ore and waste in a more sustainable way using environmentally friendly solvents. Also, our evidence-based research in the context of disaster risk includes working with the Avoidable Deaths Network, and national and local stakeholders to identify context-specific problems and solutions with the aim to reduce disaster damages and losses and promote sustainable development in low-and middle-income countries (LMIC).



The world is on a trajectory towards dangerous climate change and biodiversity loss with potentially catastrophic consequences. Increasingly unmanageable and extreme environmental conditions are the result. Resilience is the ability of a system to recover from such shocks or disruptive change. In this challenge, we aim to learn from climate disruptions throughout Earth’s history and gain insights about recent disruptive events such as catastrophic wildfires, droughts and floods. Our combined palaeo-/contemporary approach allows us to understand how the climate system and the planet responds to, survives, and recovers from, rapid environmental changes. Using this knowledge, our research aims to identify new and evolving ways to enable natural, socioeconomic and cultural ecologies to respond in a positive way to dynamic change at multiple scales.

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