Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Poster Paper: Stuck on Options and Implementation: Examining Barriers to Regional Adaptation to Sea Level Rise

Thursday, November 12, 2015
Riverfront South/Central (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Juita-Elena (Wie) Yusuf and Burton St. John III, Old Dominion University
This study focuses on challenges to adaptation to sea level rise (SLR) on a regional scale.  We developed, tested and deployed a survey instrument that asked regional planners to assess adaptation readiness and identify barriers to regional adaptation.  We focused specifically on the policy making and governance structures of regional adaptation to SLR.  The study operationalizes a conceptual framework for diagnosing barriers to climate change and applies it to the specific case of SLR adaptation in the Hampton Roads region of southeastern Virginia.  This region has been identified to be highly vulnerable to SLR and flooding, having significant military, port, transportation, and tourism infrastructure that are at risk.
Our research question is: What are barriers to regional adaptation to SLR?  Survey results indicate that the key barriers to adapting to SLR occur during the planning phase of the adaptation process and transitioning into the managing phase of the process.  Survey respondents identified the top three most challenging phases of regional adaptation as: implementation, development of options, and selection of options.  We examine specific barriers to adaptation within these three phases.  Some key themes identified in analysis of the survey include conflicting values and preferences, lack of consensus, lack of financial resources, and legal and institutional constraints.  We examine and discuss these barriers and how they can be overcome.  
We contextualize our findings on barriers to adaptation within the extant literature and link the findings to case studies of successful adaptation efforts.  This allows us to identify and characterize overarching factors essential for creating an enabling environment for adaptation.  Our study thus provides an analytical and practical approach for determining adaptation readiness at the regional level, providing implications for regional governance and the practice of evidence-based policy in the wider arena of adapting to climate change.