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Leigh Johnson

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


How is the emergence of climate change transforming human vulnerability and economic markets? And how can we understand the novel configurations of public and private sector actors and finance emerging in anticipation of climate change? The intersections of political ecology, science and technology studies, and development studies inform my investigation of these changing forms of vulnerability, knowledge, and financial flows.          

My current research has two foci: understanding the forces shaping global development interventions around climate vulnerability, and tracing the emergence of economic and legal regimes to distribute environmental risk. This encompasses work on a diverse set of topics including a hallmark livestock insurance program in Northern Kenya, experiments in governing drought risk and humanitarian aid financing in sub-Saharan Africa, the growth of catastrophe bonds as an asset class, and the bankruptcy proceedings of Pacific Gas & Electric given growing wildfire liability risk.

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

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.

Christophers, B., P. Bigger, and L. Johnson. 2018  “Stretching scales? Risk and sociality in climate financeEnvironment and Planning A: Economy and Space. (Early View)

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.