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Unpublished Paper
Windows of Opportunity: Addressing Climate Uncertainty Through Adaptation Plan Implementation
  • Elisabeth M. Hamin, University of Massachusetts - Amherst
  • Yaser Abunnasr, University of Massachusetts - Amherst
  • Elizabeth Brabec, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

There is a pressing need for municipalities and regions to undertake adaptation planning that will create urban systems suited to current as well as future climates, but uptake of adaptation has been slow. This is particularly unfortunate in that patterns of urban built form interact with climate change in ways that can reduce, or intensify, the impacts of overall global change. For policy-makers, uncertainty regarding the timing and magnitude of climate change is a significant barrier to implementing adaptation planning. Resiliency theory suggests an approach to evaluating adaptation options for cities that can bring these factors together. The method we propose focuses on implementation of adaptation, and phasing of policy. It removes time as a decision marker, instead arguing for an initial comprehensive plan to prevent maladaptive policy choices, implemented incrementally after testing the micro-climate outcomes of previous interventions. Policies begin with no-regrets decisions that reduce the long-term the need for more intensive adaptive actions and generate immediate policy benefits, while gradually enabling transformative infrastructure and design responses to increased climate impacts. Global and local indicators assume a larger role in the process, to evaluate when tipping points are in sight. We use case studies from two exemplary municipal plans to demonstrate this method's usefulness. While framed for urban planning, the approach is applicable to natural resource areas and other planning who must manage uncertainty.

  • cities; climate change; adaptation; planning process; resilience; urban policy.
Publication Date
Citation Information
Elisabeth M. Hamin, Yaser Abunnasr and Elizabeth Brabec. "Windows of Opportunity: Addressing Climate Uncertainty Through Adaptation Plan Implementation" (2012)
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