Skip to Content

Leigh Johnson

Leigh Johnson profile picture
  • Title: Assistant Professor
  • Phone: 541-346-2644
  • Office: 151 Condon Hall
  • Affiliated Departments: African Studies, Environmental Studies
  • Interests: Disasters, climate change and environmental risk, political ecology, finance, development studies, East Africa
  • Curriculum Vitae

Office Hours Fall 2020

Wednesdays 1:30-3:30 pm, via Zoom, Book your slot on Calendly here


I am a human geographer focusing on the intersection of disaster, climate risk, development, and finance. I am interested in how geographical research can help recuperate the promise of insurance as a technique of mutual solidarity and sustainable risk sharing in a changing climate.

My research investigates how novel configurations of public and private sector actors and finance shape current and future disaster vulnerability. I study why and how insurance and other risk transfer tools have become solutions of choice, and with what impacts for climate governance, justice, livelihoods, and landscapes. I work at the intersection of political ecology, development studies, and science and technology studies.

My research spans multiple regions – Africa, North America, and Europe – and scales from households, to nation states, to globally circulating policy networks. My empirical foci include a hallmark drought insurance program for livestock in Northern Kenya, a continental-scale sovereign insurance pool for humanitarian drought relief in sub-Saharan Africa, and growing catastrophe bond markets for ‘natural’ disaster risks around the globe.

I find a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods indispensable, including interviews, institutional ethnography, surveys, and focus groups. I am interested in working with students studying environmental risk, disaster, development, and finance.

Prior to joining the Geography Department in 2016, I was a lecturer in Economic Geography at the University of Zurich, Switzerland.



B.A. Columbia University, 2003; Ph.D. UC Berkeley, 2011

Selected Publications

Erikson, S. and L. Johnson. 2020 "Will financial innovation transform pandemic response?" The Lancet Infectious Diseases, Online First  doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(20)30150-X

Christophers, B., P. Bigger, and L. Johnson. 2020  “Stretching scales? Risk and sociality in climate financeEnvironment and Planning A: Economy and Space. 52(1): 88-110.

Johnson, L., B. Wandera, N. Jensen, and R. Banerjee. 2019 "Competing expectations in an index-based livestock insurance project", Journal of Development Studies 55(6): 1221-1239.

Ouma, S., L. Johnson, P. Bigger. 2018 “Rethinking the financialization of nature”, Environment and Planning A. (50) 500-511

Müller, B., L. Johnson, and D. Kreuer. 2017 "Maladaptive outcomes of climate insurance in agriculture", Global Environmental Change 46: 23-33

Johnson, L. and C. Rampini. 2017. “Are climate models global public goods?”, in D. Tyfield, R. Lave, S. Randalls, and C. Thorpe (eds), Routledge Handbook of the Political Economy of Science. London: Routledge.

Johnson, L. 2015 “Catastrophic fixes? Cyclical devaluation and accumulation through climate change impacts”, Environment and Planning A (47) 2503-2521

Johnson, L. 2015 “Near futures and perfect hedges in the Gulf of Mexico”, in M. Watts, A. Mason and H. Appel (eds), Subterranean Estates: Life Worlds of Oil and Gas. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Johnson, L. 2014 “Geographies of securitized catastrophe risk and the implications of climate change”, Economic Geography (90) 155-185

Lave, R., M. Wilson, E. Barron, C. Biermann, M. Carey, M. Doyle, C. Duvall, L. Johnson, M. Lane, J. Lorimer, N. McClintock, D. Munroe, R. Pain, J. Proctor, B. Rhoads, M. Robertson, J. Rossi, N. Sayre, G. Simon, M. Tadaki, and C. Van Dyke. 2014 "Intervention: Critical Physical Geography", The Canadian Geographer (58) 1-10

Johnson, L. 2013 “Index insurance and the articulation of risk-bearing subjects”, Environment and Planning A (45) 2663-2681

Johnson, L. 2013 “Catastrophe bonds and financial risk: Securing capital and rule through contingency”, Geoforum (45) 30-40

Johnson, L. 2010 “The fearful symmetry of Arctic climate change: Accumulation by degradation”, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 28 (5) 828-847

Johnson, L. 2010 “Climate change and the risk industry: The multiplication of fear and value” In R. Peet, P. Robbins & M. Watts (eds), Global Political Ecology. London: Routledge.



Fall 2020:

Geography 465/565 Environment and Development (Syllabus)

Clark Honors College 231 Climate Change Inequality and Action (Syllabus)