The selection and use of climate information in California’s urban adaptation plans

Authors: James Cunningham*, University of Arizona
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Global Change, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: climate adaptation, climate policy, urban planning, climate governance, built environment, science-policy interface
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Tower Court A, Sheraton, IM Pei Tower, Second Floor Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Urban climate adaptation solutions are often predicated on knowledge of climate change impacts. This requires city managers and environmental planners to engage in novel ways of gathering data, using scientific information, and dealing with uncertainty. This research seeks to understand (1) the ways that California cities select and utilize climate science in their adaptation plans and (2) how these choices may influence adaptation solutions. This study employs a content analysis of California’s city-level 2012-2017 climate adaptation plans, supplemented with interviews carried out with plan authors and contributors. Results suggest that decisions related to climate science are informed by the relationships that city managers have with environmental consulting companies, researchers at local universities, and regional adaptation networks. Further, within the researched plans, climate information is largely used to frame generalized threats to cities and their inhabitants, supplementing the “no regrets” solutions that dominate California’s urban adaptation solutions. One notable exception is the use of sea level rise models, which are more directly integrated into projected and ongoing adaptation projects, at times presenting barriers to adaptation action. Findings of this project speak to the state of urban adaptation in California and contribute to ongoing debates surrounding climate change and urban planning.

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