UCL Department of Geography


Samuel Randalls

I am an Associate Professor in Geography with research interests in the relationship between business/finance, environment and science, especially related to weather and climate (change), in both historical and contemporary settings. I teach across a range of environment and society topics, from business and the environment to nature conservation to the politics of climate change.

More about Dr Randalls

I graduated with a BA in Geography, MSc in Research in Human Geography and a PhD in Geography all from the University of Birmingham. My PhD thesis explored weather futures markets and was funded by an ESRC-NERC scholarship, conducted under the supervision of Jonathan Oldfield, Jane Pollard and John Thornes. I then moved to a post-doctoral research position as a James Martin Fellow in the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, working under Diana Liverman’s tutelage for 18 months within an interdisciplinary group of fellows exploring climate change as a 21st-century challenge. I subsequently took up a Lectureship in Geography at UCL in 2007. 

My primary research interests were catalysed by interdisciplinary teaching at Birmingham on weather, climate and society, as well as in economic and historical geography. These have shaped many of my research projects exploring the inter-relationships between environments, business/finance and science. Although much of my research focuses on historical and contemporary social science related to weather and climate, I also have a long-standing interest in nature conservation and forestry too. 

My most recent research has been exploring 19th and early 20th Century weather and climate insurance, with James Kneale. This has led to publications in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, and Annals of the American Association of Geographers and Enterprise and Society. I have also co-edited four books (‘Future Climate Change’ with Mark Maslin, 2012; ‘The Routledge Handbook of the Political Economy of Science’ with David Tyfield, Rebecca Lave and Charles Thorpe, 2017; ‘Just Enough: The History, Culture and Politics of Sufficiency’ with Matthew Ingleby, 2019; and ‘Weather, Climate and the Geographical Imagination’ with Martin Mahony, 2020). 

I convene the MSc optional module ‘Politics of Climate Change’ (GEOG0083), which explores the diverse challenges of and proposed solutions to climate change from a range of critically-informed social science perspectives. I also lead modules on ‘Environment and Society’ and ‘Conservation and Environmental Management’. As a past programme convenor for the Environment, Politics and Society MSc (2010-2018) and as a former Head of Teaching/Deputy Head of Department (2019-2022), I take a particular interest in pedagogy and curriculum design.


I teach on the following modules:




To view Dr Randalls's publications, please visit UCL Profiles:


Research Interests

My research focuses on historical, contemporary and future relationships between environments, businesses/markets and science, with a particular focus on weather and climate. I am interested in both the ways businesses create new products around environmental issues (whether hail insurance in the 19th century or contemporary green finance) and the kinds of knowledge, expertise and science created and used to justify, legitimate and evidence these.

Most recently I have worked with James Kneale exploring the historical development of weather and climate-related insurance from the mid-nineteenth century in the U.K. This is particularly focused on hail insurance in England from the 1840s-1900s (with reference to agricultural and business history) and life insurance for people travelling overseas (with reference to medical and climatological expertise, including the 'geographical climatologies' of insurance pricing). Another strand of this research took me to Ellsworth Huntington’s archives and his work with insurance companies in the 1920s pioneering early computational technologies to produce his weather and mortality study.

Past research has explored four broad other themes.

  • Histories of climate policy and politics, especially the emergence of climate stabilization as a scientific and economic concept (with Max Boykoff and Dave Frame), the development of the 2 degrees temperature target, the influence of economic ideas in shaping policy and the shaping of climate change narratives within editorials in Nature and Science (with Mike Hulme, Maud Borie and Noam Obermeister). I have also co-edited a book exploring historical geographical imaginations of weather and climate (with Martin Mahony).
  • Explorations of weather and economy, in particular the commercialisation of meteorology, histories of industrial meteorology and, in my doctoral research, a sociology of weather derivatives markets, where contracts are traded on weather indices. This explored the implications for both business attitudes to weather and climate risks as well as questions about the public-private division of meteorology. This research has further explored the political economies of science and the implications of commercialised and financialised science, including co-editing the Routledge Handbook of the Political Economy of Science (with David Tyfield, Rebecca Lave and Charles Thorpe).
  • Analyses of new environmentally-oriented products in relation to conservation/forestry. In particular, I explored the early development of the underwater logging industry examining the emergence and development of the businesses with consideration of the economic, ecological and social implications (with Gill Petrokofsky). This research was funded by a Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Small Research Grant. I have also written about auditability and marine biodiversity offsetting (with Holly Niner).
  • More conceptually, studies of key ideas/terms about the future through comparative explorations of their deployment in different fields e.g. on precaution and preemption in terrorism and climate change (with Marieke de Goede) and the multiple sites of resilience (with Stephanie Simon).

I welcome enquiries from potential graduate students interested in researching similar topics.


My work has been referenced in blogs and other web media on climate change policy, in particular with regard to the 2 degrees temperature target. Through this research, I have argued (with Max Boykoff and Dave Frame) that global mean temperature stabilization targets are a poorly conceived way of developing global climate policy because they expose society to risks through the uncertainties about climate sensitivity. Nevertheless, they have been central to climate negotiations because they are politically appealing and aid economic analysis.

My MSc module on the Politics of Climate Change (GEOG0083) encourages students to understand why people and organizations disagree about climate change. It explores the different ways we frame the problem and recommends solutions to it, drawing out their basis in our views of the efficacy of economics, politics, behavioural change and ethics (to name a few areas). This provides a valuable tool for understanding the conflicts that might arise when discussing climate change and other environmental issues in practice both in life and in future careers. I have given talks as part of extension lectures for Bonas MacFarlane Education and at student-organized events.

Research Students

Current PhD research students

  • Leila Martine Leila Martine (2nd supervisor, with Muki Haklay and Izzy Bishop)
  • Sarah Fischel (1st supervisor, with Lewis Daly)
  • Robert Petitpas (1st supervisor, with Seth Gustafson)

Past PhD research students

  • Jin-ho Chung (2nd supervisor, with Ben Page)
  • Hannah Fair (1st supervisor, with Ben Page)
  • Andrew Papworth (1st supervisor, with Mark Maslin)
  • Sara Peres (with Brian Balmer, STS)