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A line in the sand: Towards a new framework for sustainable coastal communities

   School of Geography

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  Dr Andrew Russell, Dr James Porter  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This PhD opportunity at Queen Mary University of London is funded via the LISS Doctoral Training Partnership CASE Studentships.

The project will synthesise previous examinations of coastal climate change risks and policy responses, and then develop new and innovative responses based on stakeholder engagement activities. This is an opportunity to help tackle of the key climate change risks the UK faces.


THE RISING TIDE… The UK’s official advisor on climate change – the Committee on Climate Change – has described the environmental and socioeconomic issues facing the UK’s shorelines as a “coastal time bomb”. This dramatic assertion stems from three key factors:

1) Global climate change will lead to rising sea levels and changing storm patterns that will result in increased UK coastal flooding and accelerated coastal erosion.

2) Protection from coastal flooding and erosion is expensive and interferes with important natural processes meaning that it can only be justified for the most developed coastal settlements.

3) Higher levels of deprivation in coastal communities means that there is much less capacity for people to build resilience to climate change impacts.

The potential problem is huge: the UK’s recent Climate Change Risk Assessment estimated that by 2100 the number of people exposed to coastal flood risk could increase by 5 times and the number of people exposed to coastal erosion could increase by up to 30 times.

HEADS IN THE SAND… Whilst these issues are well-known, current government policies and actions are not adequate to manage these rapidly increasing coastal climate change risks. Indeed, the Committee on Climate Change assesses these policies and actions every two years and they consistently find that the growth of the risks is greater than the potential of new and existing policies to manage those risks. There is a significant “adaptation gap”.

There are many complicated and intertwined reasons why this is the case. To name a few: the required adaptations are expensive and there is a limited budget; the data on exactly when and where the greatest impacts will occur are uncertain; responsibility for managing the problem is split inelegantly between many organisations; there is a complex patchwork of legislation that has developed over the last 70 years that makes future policy making especially difficult; there are specific coastal issues around insurance, compensation and town planning that cause unique problems; and the likely least-worst responses in some cases will still be incredibly hard to implement technically and socially e.g. managed retreat of coastlines, abandonment of settlements.

These are difficult problems to solve but they need to be acknowledged and addressed.

TURNING THE TIDE… In close collaboration with our think-tank partner – Policy Connect – this PhD project aims to develop a new, social science driven approach to sustainably assessing and managing coastal risks. We aim to:

1) Review and synthesise previous coastal risk assessments, cost-benefit analyses and policy approaches.

2) Develop a range of viable coastal adaptation options based on Step 1.

3) Test the options from Step 2 with impacted communities and policy experts to develop sustainable adaptation options.

4) Apply and improve an innovative approach to visualising coastal adaptation decision making that uses measures of environmental, economic and social factors to identify routes to a sustainable future.


A completed application form and a covering letter must be emailed to the lead supervisor - Dr Andy Russell ([Email Address Removed]) - by 23:59 on Friday 3rd March 2023.

Please click here for the application form (click "File" -> "Download" -> "Microsoft Word").

Your covering letter should address why you are interested in this project and what relevant existing skills, training and knowledge you would bring to the project.

Interviews will take place from w/c Monday 13th March 2023.

The project is available as a 3-year funded PhD project or as a 1+3 masters and PhD project.

UK and international students may apply (note, however, that the DTP can only fund a limited number of international students).

The Doctoral Studentship award will cover the full UKRI Home Tuition Fee and a stipend/maintenance allowance valued at £19,688 per annum (2022-23) for full-time doctoral programmes and £9,834.00 per annum for part-time programmes. Please note that stipends are tax-free. Please see the LISS website for details of the international fee coverage.

Informal enquiries can be sent to Dr Andy Russell [Email Address Removed]

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