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PhD Kelly Dorkenoo focuses on negative impacts of climate change in Cambodia

A housing area destroyed by a hurricane. Photo.

In her first year seminar on 17th September, Kelly Dorkenoo, PhD at LUCSUS, will highlight her research on negative impacts of climate change in Cambodia. She aims to identify potential pathways to address disproportionate losses and damages from climate change at different levels in society. 

What is your research about?

My research is on the negative impacts of climate change in Cambodia. I focus on developing an understanding of interactions between climate change and socio-economic development in Cambodia. I explore the concept of Loss and Damage (L&D) and examine its usefulness in understanding the varied and unequal impacts of climate change through the concept of disproportionality, which is core to climate justice. The emphasis is on what loss and damage means and to whom, understanding what is valued (and hence at risk), as well as the mechanisms that in interaction with climate change, lead to differentiated losses and damages. The aim is to identify potential pathways to address disproportionate losses and damages at different scales.  

How far have you come?

In the past year, I have spent a lot of time going through different sets of literature related to climate change impacts and policy, with a particular focus on loss and damage scholarship. I took quite a few PhD courses and conducted preliminary fieldwork in Cambodia to meet with potential collaborators for the research and identify case studies. All of this contributed to the design of a complete thesis plan and framework for the next three years of research.

What excites you the most in your work?

Loss and damage research (like most climate change related topics) is not particularly ‘uplifting’, it deals with the negative impacts of a changing climate on societies, people and the natural environment. However, I am excited about collaborating with partners in Cambodia to develop a more detailed understanding of people’s lived experiences in relation to climate change impacts. The goal for the research is to co-produce knowledge that will be useful to a variety of stakeholders; it can also contribute to making these impacts more visible. The aim is not to be defeatist but instead focus on questions of justice, and on agency, to identify pathways to address disproportionate losses and damages.

In some ways, loss and damage research represents an opportunity; it can bring questions of values and desired futures to the forefront of the discussion.

Why is it important?

The body of evidence on losses and damages is quite skewed; most studies tend to focus on high-income countries and to date no study framed as “Loss and damage from climate change” about Cambodia seem to exist. This is the case for many countries that have been identified as most likely to be disproportionately impacted by climate change while having contributed to it the least. Mitigation (emissions reduction strategies) and adaptation (measures to adapt to a changing climate) are currently not on track to prevent severe climate impacts. Extreme weather events are on the rise, as we have seen over the last few years, and so are the more subtle and pervasive changes in temperatures and weather patterns. These are causing a wide range of losses and damages around the world, especially for groups that are already marginalized or at a disadvantage. 

Yet, progress on the Loss and Damage agenda in the negotiations on climate change is very limited, plagued by disagreements. It is thus important to have further grounded research that examines the meaning of loss and damage, justice and responsibility in different contexts and at different scales. This could contribute to bridging the divide between policy mechanisms at the international level and local realities.

Research projcect, DICE - Recasting the disproportionate impacts of climate change extremes

DICE is a Formas-funded project focusing on conceptualising, measuring and governing loss and damage, L&D, including economic and non-economic forms of impact. The ambition of DICE is to build capacity for the climate change research community to engage with research on loss and damage, and transformational challenges, specifically by delivering insights into the potential governance instruments for national engagement and how it differs from adaptation.

Loss and Damage has been established under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in addition to adaptation and mitigation to address the impacts of both sudden and slow-onset events relating to climate change, including harm to people and ecosystems caused by floods, hurricanes, sea level rise and desertification in developed and developing countries alike.

Read more about DICE

About the researcher - Kelly Dorkenoo

kelly photo

Kelly Dorkenoo is a recent doctorate from Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS). She holds undergraduate degrees in international business administration from Montpellier Business School and applied economics from Paris South XI; and a master’s degree in environmental management and policy from the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE) at Lund University. 

Read more about Kelly Dorkenoo's research