My consultancy work mostly addresses climate change and international development, and involves advising development agencies and related organisations about the potential implications of climate change for their work and investments. The issues I tackle in this context include climate risk assessment, vulnerability and adaptation, and the “mainstreaming” of climate change into development planning and practice.
My research, conducted in collaboration with colleagues from a number of academic institutions, relates to past climatic changes and human responses to them. My main focus is on the last period of systematic global climatic reorganisation, from approximately 6400 to 5000 years before present (BP), and how this affected human populations in what today are the semi-arid and arid northern hemisphere sub-tropics. This research involves both desk review work (synthesising archaeological and environmental information to examine human-environment interaction during this period), and fieldwork, which seeks to further our understanding of human-environment interaction in the Sahara as it turned from savannah to desert. A major element of my current research involves the comparison of archaeological and environmental information relating to this period in order to examine the role of climate change in the emergence of the world’s first large, complex, urban civilisations. For a detailed treatment of this subject you can download this paper (pdf file, 324 kb).
Since 2002 I have been a director of the Western Sahara Project, which examines past climatic, environmental and cultural change in what is now the disputed, non-self governing territory of Western Sahara. The Project’s work takes place in the zone controlled by the indigenous Polisario independence movement, with the remainder of Western Sahara controlled by Morocco. Both Morocco and the Polisario claim the entire territory, which is currently under a de facto partition pending a UN-mandated referendum on self-determination which now looks unlikely to materialise.
More information on my research can be found on my professional website.