Monday September 18 2006

Planning for Climate Change: From urban design to complex systems 

Professor Ed Blakely

Complexity, Climate Change, and the Precautionary Principle

Professor John Quiggin

Climate Change: Planning for it and not just worrying about it (Ed Blakely)

Climate change may be temporary – a few years, a few hundred years or forever. No matter how the topic is debated, the real issues are how to plan for what may happen and what role urban planning plays in that process. This talk will describe the impacts of climate change on cities and – using New Orleans as an illustration of what not to do – describe how to ensure that urban areas can respond to climate change as we rebuild our cities.

Complexity, Climate Change, and the Precautionary Principle (John Quiggin)

The problem of climate change involves interactions between current and future human energy and land use, driven by a world economy and society embracing billions of people, and global atmospheric, oceanic and biospheric systems operating at scales ranging from microscopic to planetary.

In debating policy decisions about such complex systems, it is common to appeal to the precautionary principle. One popular version states: `When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken, even if some cause-and-effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.’

However, this principle itself creates difficulties in a situation where any activity we undertake has the potential to cause harm. Some have therefore suggested that the precautionary principle should be discarded. In this lecture, it will be argued that the precautionary principle can be given a rigorous formulation that provides useful guidance in dealing with complex systems.

  • 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm: Professor Ed Blakely
  • 7:30 pm to 7:45 pm: Refreshments
  • 7:45 pm to 8:45 pm: Professor John Quiggin
  • Venue: Ithaca Room, City Hall
  • Questions? Contact Jennifer (0408 796 357 or 
  • Professor Ed Blakely is the fourth Chair of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Sydney and Director of the Planning Research Centre. He is known for his innovative work in the redevelopment of New York City as leader of the community panel that crafted the regional response to the devastation of downtown Manhattan post the 9-11 crises. He was directly involved in the recovery efforts for the San Francisco and Los Angeles earthquakes. For these and other activities in sustainable development the University of California established the Edward J. Blakely Institute of Sustainable Suburban Development.

    Ed has been an advisor to metropolitan regions all over the world earning recognition from the French, Vietnamese, Swedish, Canadian, Saudi Arabian, Chinese, and American governments. Since coming to Australia, he is credited with the design of the “Gateway Strategy” for the Southeast Queensland Regional Plan and the “Technology Precincts” strategy in the Melbourne Metropolitan Plan.

    John Quiggin is a Federation Fellow in Economics and Political Science at the University of Queensland. He is prominent both as a research economist and as a commentator on Australian economic policy. He has published over 750 research articles, books and reports, and he has been an active contributor to Australian public debate. He is a regular columnist for the Australian Financial Review and he frequently comments on policy issues for radio and TV. Since 2002, he has published a weblog ( providing daily comments on a wide range of topics.