Russell Wise

Dr Russell WiseRussell Wise

Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO Environment

See Dr Wise’s full research profile here.


Research outputs linked to policy change and decision making

  • 2019 – 2023: Enabling Resilience Investment (ERI) initiative (CSIRO leader). The ERI is a developing action research agenda that aims to account for uncertain disruptions from climate change and opportunities for creating value through investment processes. The initiative currently comprises several applied place-based projects focused on (1) developing and testing adaptation and transition pathways, investment processes, and methods to build understanding and capabilities in public and private investment and risk assessment processes and, (2) building coalitions across communities, business, and governments to better enable nationally consistent accounting for uncertainty, climate disruption, and value creation through resilience investment. Existing projects span a range of domains and contexts including regional scale disaster recovery, strategic regional land-use planning, urban precinct disaster risk reduction, national level science-policy advice to support systemic DRR policy and funding, and resilient coastal asset management under climate change.
  • 2022 – 2023: Regional Adaptation Pathways Planning (CSIRO co-project leader). The need to account for climate & disaster risks in regional planning is now widely recognised. General principles and normative statements abound on what this ought to involve but there is no clear or agreed methodology for how to do this. This pilot project developed and demonstrated an end-to-end (prototype) methodology for assessing current and future multi-hazard disaster risks and opportunities to inform the identification of disaster risk reduction targets and generate options and adaptation pathways for strategically planning and delivering safe and affordable housing under changing climate, population and economic drivers. These options and pathways included options for identifying sources of funds and new governance arrangements to facilitate delivery through regional plans and the broader land-use planning system. The pilot was implemented in the Illawarra Shoalhaven region in partnership with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment and the Illawarra Shoalhaven Joint Organisation, under the NSW Government Integrated Strategic Assessment approach.
  • 2019 – 2020: Nature’s contributions to adaptation (project leader). In this project we explored and developed the concept of nature’s contribution to adaptation (NCA; previously called adaptation services), to reveal properties of ecosystems that provide options for future livelihoods and adaptation to transformation of social-ecological systems due to climate change. Knowledge about the capacity of ecosystems to supply NCA can inform decisions by revealing options for adaptation. The project involved numerous historical and contemporary case studies of transformative adaptation. Key findings from this project were that the concept of NCAs enabled consideration and inclusion of more transformative adaptations by helping reveal and overcome current decision constraints imposed on people by societal values/preferences, institutional rules, or knowledge deficits. The NCA concept was able to do this by helping decision makers identify / generate novel options and re-frame their decision contexts. Generalisable or transferable findings from this project are that the NCA concept can be applied to (1) help resolve uncertainties about nature’s contributions to people under environmental change; (2) reveal ecosystem properties of value for adaptation, but which are marginalised in current, dominant knowledge frameworks and decision-making; (3) act as a ‘boundary object’ for participative learning and co-production of adaptation options. Thus, the NCA concept represents a pragmatic, optimistic approach for societal adaptation to ecosystem transformation, countering feelings of despair that accompany the acceptance of irreversible, unavoidable loss of current ecosystem states and associated nature’s contributions to people.
  • 2018 – 2019: Guidance for Strategic Decisions on Climate and Disaster Risk (project leader). This project has delivered a series of leading best practice guidance for systemic risk assessment and strategic decision making to support effective climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction. The guidance documents are available at AIDR’s Knowledge Hub and are increasingly accessed and used by decision makers at all levels of government.
  • 2012–2016: Enabling Adaptation Pathways (project leader). In this initiative we have been examining the use of adaptation pathways as a conceptual and analytical framework for enabling adaptation planning and decision making in response to long-term and uncertain change. This approach identifies adaptation challenges and examines the differing adaptation outcomes based on what interventions are applied and when. Understanding the types of decisions that need to be made, the lifetimes and flexibility of these decisions, and the need to address near-term issues while strategically creating options for the long-term future is at the heart of this approach. The Enabling Adaptation Pathways initiative has developed and demonstrated decision-support tools and processes over many years to help stakeholders in a range of contexts plan for uncertain futures. These tools and processes allow stakeholders and researchers to diagnose adaptation problems and deliberate over the social, environmental, and economic costs and benefits of a range of adaptation initiatives. These deliberations inform decisions about the priority and timing of different adaptation activities. The initiated choices are then monitored and evaluated, further informing the adaptive learning and management required of flexible adaptation pathways.

Current academic employment and positions

  • 2019 – present: Principal Research Scientist (Sustainability Economics), CSIRO Environment.
  • 2022 – present: Adjunct Professor, Centre for Urban Transitions, Swinburne University.

Highest qualification

  • 2005: PhD in Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of New England. PhD dissertation title: “Agroforests as carbon sinks: a bio-economic analysis of Indonesian systems”.

Major achievements and honours

Roles on government or regional organisation committees

  • 2021 – 2023: Seconded to the National Recovery and Resilience Agency. Director of Strategic Decision Making and Resilience Investment, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
  • 2018 – 2019: Seconded to the National Resilience Taskforce. Director of Natural Hazard Intelligence and Strategic Decision Making, Department of Home Affairs

Invited member on numerous expert advisory committees

  • The ‘Brains trust’ on the Resilient Lifelines initiative funded through the NESP
  • CSIRO representative on the Resilient Futures Investment Roundtable
  • The Resilience Policy Advisory Council for the Committee for Sydney
  • The Disaster Cost Benefit Analysis advisory group for the NSW Treasury

My Projects

Current projectCompleted project
NESP RLH, 2021-2027NESP, 2015-2021NERP, 2012-2015TRaCK, 2005-present