Climate Vulnerability and Adaptation VI: Urban Socio-Ecological Systems

Type: Paper
Theme: Hazards, Geography, and GIScience
Sponsor Groups: Human Dimensions of Global Change Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM (MDT)
Room: Grand Chenier, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Organizers: Alexandra Paige Fischer, Scott Stephenson
Chairs: Alexandra Paige Fischer


The Human Dimensions of Global Change (HDGC) Specialty Group invites participation in a special symposium on Vulnerability, Resilience, and Adaptation to Climate Change. Climate change is one of the world’s most pressing challenges, one that will require human adaptation to new and in some cases more hazardous environmental conditions. Ecosystem services critical to society—water, food, fiber, climate regulation—will be greatly affected by changes in global precipitation and temperature patterns. Moreover, climate change is expected to cause dramatic and unprecedented ecological disturbance. Severe storms, droughts, sea level rise, forest insect and disease infestations, and uncharacteristically large wildfires have already been observed at levels beyond the range of what was seen during the last century. Climate projections suggest that rising temperature and extreme variations in precipitation will exacerbate these large-scale changes in the future, threatening agriculture, forestry production and water resources, destroying infrastructure and habitat for humans and other species, releasing large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, and exacerbating human health problems (e.g., asthma, disease). Infrastructure and natural resource management decisions by humans will interact with climate-driven change, exacerbating or ameliorating hazards and risks. However, despite substantial advancement in modeling global climate change and ecosystem response, less is known about how human responses will interact ecosystem responses with outcomes of exposure and sensitivity.

HDGC scholarship has a rich tradition of grappling with human vulnerability, resilience and adaptation to climate-related natural hazards and disasters, and recent events have heightened the need for sustained critical examination. Questions have been raised about the extent to which society has engineered its own vulnerability, as well as its resilience, and how efforts to adapt are unintentionally increasing vulnerability of other groups and sectors (i.e., are maladaptive). Greater attention is needed on frameworks and methods for evaluating and distinguishing between adaptation, which is generally considered a long-term shift in behavior; coping, which involves temporary adjustment in response to change or to mitigate shocks and stresses; and manipulation, which refers to short-term change in an external system to make self-regulation unnecessary. For example, in the post-Katrina years, geographers have interrogated the outcomes of disaster response as interactions of global and regional-scale atmospheric and oceanic phenomena with processes of local capacity-building and development. These interactions have been broadly characterized by large geographic disparities between the global North and South, and within socioeconomically diverse communities (e.g. Lewis et al. 2017). Similarly, capacity to prepare for and adapt to long-term climate impacts remains largely concentrated where infrastructure and specialist expertise are already well-developed (e.g. Climate Ready Boston Initiative).

In this special symposium, we seek to highlight new research on vulnerability, resilience, and adaptation to climate change from a variety of geographic perspectives. We invite scholars who are advancing frameworks and methodologies for investigating and disentangling these concepts. In particular, we invite scholars to reflect on recent natural hazard events and socio-ecological changes that can be attributed to climate and how they have shaped geographic scholarship beyond the hazard and risk literature. For example, what lessons from Hurricane Katrina, a disaster marked by widespread governance failure and socioeconomic disparities, were applied to research and planning with outcomes for Hurricane Harvey and Irma?

Possible topics include:
-Frameworks for assessing vulnerability that pay attention to adaptive capacity as exposure and sensitivity
-Empirical research on individual, group and institutional adaptation that sheds light on enabling and constraining factors
-Frameworks for evaluating and distinguishing between adaptation, transformation and resilience
-Adaptation behavior in the context of interacting slow and sudden onset stressors
-Methods for modelling, monitoring, forecasting, and downscaling for climate-related planning and actionable science
-Evaluating adaptive capacity in local context including municipal, regional, and national climate preparedness plans (e.g., C40) and actions
-Novel institutional arrangements for climate related planning and decision-making (e.g., adaptive management, integrated watershed management, anticipatory governance, boundary organizations)
-The role of infrastructure, technology, and socio-technical systems in climate preparedness
-Risk perception and communication, including values, norms, and behavior theory, online platforms and disaster response
-Vulnerability and social justice


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Rinku Roy Chowdhury*, Clark University, Guy Hydrick, Clark University, Chingwen Cheng, Arizona State University, Allain Barnett, Florida International University, David Eisenmann, UCLA, Jenniffer Santos-Hernandez, University of Puerto Rico, Vivek Shandas, Portland State University, A Conceptual Framework for Urban Vulnerability Analysis in Sustainability Science: Integrating Socio-Ecological-Technological Systems 20 3:20 PM
Presenter Allain Barnett*, Florida International University, Rinku Roy Chowdhury, Clark University, Kevin Grove, Florida International University, Guy Hydrick, Clark University, Evelyn Gaiser, Florida International University, John Kominoski, Florida International University, Matt Smith, Florida International University, Infrastructures and action situations: converging ideas in science and technology studies and institutional analysis to study urban resilience to climate extremes 20 3:40 PM
Discussant Joshua Newell University of Michigan 20 4:00 PM

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