IIASA researcher Reinhard Mechler will host a panel discussion on transdisciplinary science insights for understanding managed retreat across hazards, scales, and geographies at this year's Columbia Climate School conference.

Columbia Climate school © Mindauga Dulinska | Dreamstime.com

Building on the success of the 2019 conference on Managed Retreat, the 2021 virtual conference will address a range of scientific, social, policy, and governance issues around managed retreat, also known as strategic realignment and planned relocation.

The conference, a major initiative of the Columbia Climate School and its Earth Institute, will bring together stakeholders from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, together with academics, scientists, and community representatives, to help develop a common understanding of these complex issues, and move the needle towards equitable solutions.

A major emphasis will be on issues of environmental justice, recognizing that the people most impacted by decisions around retreat need to have a key role in these conversations.

June 25th, at 8:30am – 10:00am ET; 14:30-16:00 CEST

Panel discussion: Transdisciplinary science insight for understanding managed retreat across hazards, scales and geographies.

Hosted by: Reinhard Mechler, Sirkku Juhola (University of Helsinki) and Stefan Hochrainer-Stigler, a researcher with the IIASA Systemic Risk and Resilience Research Group 


On the occasion of the Columbia Climate School Conference the following paper has been published in Science magazine:

Addressing the human cost of  displacement in a changing climateScience, June 18 2021

Bina Desai1, David N. Bresch2, Christelle Cazabat1, Stefan Hochrainer-Stigler3, Reinhard Mechler3, Sylvain Ponserre1, Jacob Schewe,Addressing the human cost of  displacement in a changing climate, Science, June 18 2021

Panel discussion overview:

In a quickly warming world with climate risks becoming increasingly existential, considerations for strategic retreat are seeing heightened attention in popular debate, implementation and policy. Increasing evidence of forced and voluntary retreat in coastal and non-coastal regions is being reported across geographies both in developed and developing countries. Managed retreat, considered as the purposeful, coordinated movement of people and assets out of harm’s way, has been overlooked, as much of the focus in both research and policy so far has been placed on protective measures, such as flood barriers, for example. Instead of protecting existing infrastructure and dwellings, managed retreat in practice means relocation and more importantly implies that there is a process for a political decision to abandon some areas. Inter-and transdisciplinary research is increasingly turning to the issue providing relevant and innovative inroads into science and policy debates, acknowledging that this is not a technical or a bureaucratic issue alone.

This panel demonstrates the value of these types of approaches by bringing together research and stakeholders from practice and policy to discuss how these types of approaches can further shed light on the complexity of managed retreat as both outcome and process. In particular, the panel discussion will tackle key prospects and challenges including

• Conceptualizations providing useful discursive entry points (strategic relocation, voluntary and planned relocation, strategic advance, aggressive resilience etc.),

• Methods and tools for assessing the need for and outcomes of managed retreat as well as fair process,

• Case study insight on coastal and non-coastal retreat across geographies and hazards

• Inroads for links with cross-cutting debates on climate equity and justice, transformation, and Loss & Damage

• Proper roles for transdisciplinarity and global research on managed retreat;

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