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James Patterson is an Assistant Professor of Institutional Dynamics in Sustainability. He has a broad cross-disciplinary perspective spanning political science, environmental studies, and institutional analysis. His main research line focuses on institutions and their dynamics: How and why institutions change, and with what effects on governance systems and society? This work examines the institutional dynamics of climate change adaptation and decarbonization.

Another line of research focuses on the governance and politics of sustainability transformations. This responds to widespread contemporary calls from scientists and policymakers for large-scale societal transformations to meet urgent sustainability and social justice challenges (for example, by the IPCC, and the International Science Council, among others). It examines how the governance aspects of these transformations are understood and explained.

Five key publications:

  • Patterson, J., De Voogt., D.L., Sapiains, R. (2019) Beyond inputs and outputs: Process‐oriented explanation of institutional change in climate adaptation governance. Environmental Policy and Governance.
  • Patterson, J.J., Beunen, R. (2019) Introduction to Special Issue: Institutional work in environmental governance. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management. Introduction to Special Issue.
  • Patterson, J.J., Huitema, D. (2019) Institutional innovation for adapting to climate change in urban governance. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management.
  • Patterson, J.J., Thaler, T., Hoffmann, M., Hughes, S., Oels, A., Chu, E., Mert, A., Huitema, D., Burch, S., Jordan, A. (2018) Political feasibility of 1.5°C societal transformations: the role of social justice. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability. 31:1–9.
  • Patterson, J., Schulz, K., Vervoort, J., van der Hel, S., Widerberg, O., Adler, C., Hurlbert, Anderton, K., Sethi, M., Barau, A. (2017) Exploring the governance and politics of transformations towards sustainability. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions. 24:1–16.


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