Welcome!

I am a political scientist working at the Environmental Science Department of the Open University of the Netherlands. I work on the politics of big data/ smart cities and the politics of climate change adaptation and mitigation at both national and international levels.

In November 2018, I hosted the international interdisciplinary conference ‘Making the smart city safe for citizens’ attended by 110 participants. All plenary presentations were recorded and can be watched here. I am currently editing a special issue with critical perspectives on the smart city. Moreover, I work with an international consortium on a grant application about how to implement social justice in the modelling of smart urban mobility services.

Secondly, I am involved as co-investigator in the international research project ‘Climate adaptation policy lock-ins: A 3 x 3 approach’  funded by NWO, DFG and ESRC under the Open Research Area funding scheme. Jointly with our colleagues from Germany and the UK, Dave Huitema and I (for the Netherlands) investigate which mechanisms of lock-in can explain inaction on climate change adaptation in the three countries, using a comparative approach. I bring to this project research carried out for two recent publications. Jointly with Pia Buschmann, I have explored the role of discursive carbon lock-ins in the German energy transition, explaining why coal is still so dominant (open access copy available here, summary in advanced science news here). In the field of adaptation to climate change, I critically discuss the potential of different forms of learning and participation in delivering transformational adaptation, drawing on the theoretical perspectives of Habermas, Foucault and Ranciere (for a book edited by Carina Keskitalo). I have become convinced that performativity and disruption can often be more effective means of political participation than stakeholder dialogues.

I have followed the international politics of climate change since 1995. I made my first presentation on climate change while still in school in 1988. I attended the first Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Berlin in 1995 as youth observer and contributor to a youth summit. I also have a long history of working with Michel Foucault’s governmentality concept. I was amongst the first to apply it to the international politics of climate change (Oels 2005). I have investigated the construction of climate change as a security issue and its policy implications (in my habilitation thesis). My empirical work in recent years has focused on the figure of the “climate refugee” and I have published a critique of the international discourses on climate change and migration (Methmann/Oels 2015). I have also co-authored a piece on climate justice and the 1,5 degree goal (see knowledge brief here, full paper here).

I have a long-standing research interest in citizen/stakeholder participation, power and theories of deliberative democracy. For my PhD, I studied the Future Search Conference as a tool for stakeholder dialogue in Local Agenda 21 processes, also using Habermas ‘ideal speech situation’. More recently, I have written about the limits of stakeholder dialogue and citizen participation as tools for learning and innovation in climate change adaptation.