The UK Climate Resilience Programme ran from 2019 to 2023

The unquantifiable: story-based approaches to climate change risk research (Webinar)

UK Climate Resilience Programme Webinar Series 2022-2023

Date: 25 January 2023, 12.00pm (GMT)

Speakers: Alan Kennedy-Asser (University of Bristol), with Stephen Jones (Climate Northern Ireland) as respondent

Chair: Pete Walton

View this webinar on YouTube


It is essential that decision making about climate change adaptation plans is evidence based – but what happens when well quantified data for decision making isn’t available? In some cases, quantitative data on impacts could have been collected in the past but was not, meaning there is no baseline to work from. In other cases, the impacts of interest are so subjective in nature (e.g. thermal discomfort) that any attempt to quantify them in a traditional generalised scientific modelling framework risks becoming meaningless. In certain cases, it must be accepted that quantified scientific modelling alone, for all its claims of objectivity, is insufficient to make decisions. It is here that qualitative and arts-based research methods can add huge value in the field of climate risk research, offering insights on these unquantifiable (but still very much important) elements of risk. In this talk, a range of examples from the ‘Once Upon a Time in a Heatwave’ embedded researcher project will be presented, along with some personal reflections of a scientist masquerading as an arts-researcher. This project was hosted by Climate Northern Ireland, focussing largely on the impacts of climate change in rural Northern Ireland. Expect stories, songs and some poetry for Burns Night.


Alan Kennedy-Asser is a research associate at the School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, working on climate impacts and risk modelling as part of the OpenCLIM project. Alan’s background is in physical climate, having completed his PhD in 2019 on the palaeoclimate of the Antarctic, although he has long been interested in using creative methods to engage the public with his work. In 2021/2022, Alan was an embedded researcher with Climate Northern Ireland on the inter-disciplinary Once Upon a Time in a Heatwave project.

Stephen Jones has nine years’ experience coordinating climate adaptation in Northern Ireland (NI), driving engagement under UK and NI climate policy. From 2017-20, he supported Derry City and Strabane District Council through development of the first climate change adaptation plan in the region, and now leads the Local Government Climate Action Network which has membership of all 11 councils and other agencies, enabling creation of climate adaptation plans across NI. Stephen has delivered bespoke climate resources and communication tools for public, private and academic partners across a diverse range of sectors, from Health to Agriculture. In November 2021, he led a session on Local Government Climate Action in the Green Zone at the International COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow. He is a Visiting Fellow of the Centre for Sustainability, Equality and Climate Action (SECA) at Queen’s University Belfast, and now works part-time as an Adaptation Analyst for the UK Climate Change Committee (CCC).