Panel Paper: Adapting Energy Systems for Climate Instability: Learning from Superstorm Sandy

Friday, November 7, 2014 : 8:30 AM
Enchantment Ballroom E (Hyatt)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Elizabeth Wilson, University of Minnesota, TarlaRai Peterson, Texas A&M University, Jennie C. Stephens, Clark University and Andrea Feldpausch-Parker, State University of New York, Syracuse
The electricity system disruptions of Superstorm Sandy in October 2012 have impacted energy system planning among utilities, communities, and individual households. The disruptions highlighted the vulnerabilities of energy systems in one of the most affluent regions of the world. The storm also provided explicit linkages between climate change and energy systems, contributing to a shift in attention on climate adaptation and preparedness for energy systems. 

Focusing events like Superstorm Sandy have the potential to drastically alter the public policy environment, shift social priorities, and reprioritize economic investments. Documenting these shifts in different regions in the aftermath of a focusing event contributes to our understanding of how natural disasters combine with existing communication networks to influence political salience. Analyzing the discursive shifts that emerge in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy enables us to explore how a focusing event contributes to the political legitimacy of discourse that directly links energy infrastructure with climate change and addresses issues like system resilience and system adaptation. This research draws from an extensive set of focus groups and media analysis to assess how different stakeholders are framing climate adaptation and preparedness for electricity systems.