Adaptive Governance and Climate Change

Latest News

Over the decades, AMS has championed the publication of unique textbooks and literature for the weather, water, and climate community, including enthusiasts. While AMS does not routinely accept book proposals, it has many books of lasting record--biographies, histories, guides, and textbooks--on offer through this bookstore as well as through the University of Chicago Press.

Shopping cart

There are no products in your shopping cart.

0 Items $0.00

Adaptive Governance and Climate Change

Ronald D. Brunner
Amanda H. Lynch
Copyright: 2010
ISBN: 9781878220974
List Price: $35.00
Member Price: $22.00
Student Price: $22.00

To see member pricing above, members should log in to the AMS Bookstore

Title information

Pages: 424
Language: English
Publisher: American Meteorlogical Society
No votes yet

As greenhouse gas emissions and temperatures at the poles continue to rise, so do damages from extreme weather events affecting countless lives. Meanwhile, ambitious international efforts to cut emissions (Kyoto, Copenhagen) have proved to be politically ineffective or infeasible. There is hope, however, in adaptive governance—an approach that has succeeded in some local communities and can be undertaken by others around the globe.As greenhouse gas emissions and temperatures at the poles continue to rise, so do damages from extreme weather events affecting countless lives. Meanwhile, ambitious international efforts to cut emissions (Kyoto, Copenhagen) have proved to be politically ineffective or infeasible. There is hope, however, in adaptive governance.


Table of Contents

1 Clarifying the Problem
An Appraisal
Constructing the Context
The Common Interest

2 The Regime Evolves
Policy and Decision Making

3 Barrow as Microcosm
Historical Contexts
Policy Responses

4 Opening the Regime
Intensive Inquiry
Procedurally Rational Policy
Decentralized Decision Making

5 Reframing the Context
Next Steps
Relevant Past
Possible Futures

Ronald D. Brunner

A native of Colorado, Ron Brunner was educated at Yale University where he received a B.A. in 1964 and a Ph.D. in 1971. He became professor of political science at the University of Colorado in 1981, and professor emeritus in 2007. Before returning to Colorado, he was a research associate at Harvard’s Center for International Affairs, a research assistant on energy policy for a member of Congress, and a tenured member of the faculty at the University of Michigan with appointments in political science and public policy. He has participated in studies by the National Research Council and the Office of Technology Assessment, and has served as editor of Policy Sciences, member of the board of the Policy Sciences Center, Inc., and president of the Society of Policy Scientists. Brunner is a policy scientist specializing in the integration of theory and practice. In collaboration with policymakers at various levels of government, he has applied central theory in the policy sciences to specific problems in energy, social welfare, space, education, natural resources, and climate policy. His research on central theory focuses on symbolic politics, context-sensitive methods, and the epistemological foundations of policy research and practice.

Amanda H. Lynch

Amanda Lynch is head of Monash Climate and a professor in the School of Geography and Environmental Sciences. Lynch obtained her Ph.D. in meteorology in 1993 from the University of Melbourne. From 1992 to 2003 she was in the United States, most recently at the University of Colorado. She was a Fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science, a Visiting Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and a consultant to the Los Alamos National Laboratory. She returned to Australia in 2004 to take up a prestigious Federation Fellowship. Lynch has held numerous leadership positions internationally. Recent activities include joint (and foundation) leader of the Universities Climate Consortium, Councillor of the American Meteorological Society (AMS), member of the AMS Board on Societal Impacts, Councillor of the International Study of Arctic Change, International Polar Year National Representative, and Deputy Chair of the National Committee on Earth System Science of the Australian Academy of Science. She was awarded the Priestly Medal in 2007 and was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering in 2008. Lynch's interests lie in the application of climate and meteorological research to problems of policy relevance. Such approaches include regional and global climate modeling of contemporary and past climates, weather prediction, development of new model evaluation techniques, and application of the policy sciences.

Review of Adaptive Governance and Climate Change

Australasian Journal of Environmental Management

Adaptive governance and climate change is a timely, cogent and to some degree provocative contribution to the growing literature on climate change policy solutions that argues the need to open the established climate change regime to additional approaches to science, policy and decision making, such as adaptive governance.

The book casts the challenge for national and international policy on climate change in the context of growing recognition of the scientific and political complexity and contested nature of climate change and the disappointing failure of policy initiatives to address effectively the dangers of climate change, particularly given the magnitude of the perceived task ahead. It acknowledges the broadening agreement that both adaptation and mitigation are required to address these perceived dangers and thus reduce losses of things society values. Finally, the authors refer to the policy ‘attention frame’ being monopolised by an agenda of scientific management that currently is focused on ‘scientific assessments by the IPCC and others, the quest for mandatory legally binding targets and timetables to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the UNFCCC, and defenses . . . against critiques by climate change skeptics’ (p. 300). The authors argue this agenda relies on a global framing of the problem via models of the total earth systems and international cooperation as prerequisites for a global solution, to the neglect of opening up the agenda to alternative climate change policies concerned with helping advance ‘the common interests of the world’s many diverse communities’ (p. 261).

The basic tenet of the book is the need for change in our way of thinking that recognises the progress made by local, community-based initiatives in addressing the realities of climate change through the implementation of policy alternatives lying largely outside the constraints of the scientific management agenda. In a w a y reminiscent of the adage ‘think global, act local’, the authors propose the solution lies in ‘factoring the problem into thousands of local problems, each of which is more tractable scientifically and politically than the global one and somewhat different’ (p. 6). This requires a shift away from a predominantly centralised, top-down policy approach framed in the tradition of scientific management, towards one complementing such initiatives with informed alternatives that embody a reframing of climate science, policy and decision-making in the context of adaptive governance. The book describes adaptive governance as ‘an emerging pattern of science, policy and decision-making, and so far a missed opportunity for reducing net losses from climate change on larger scales at all levels in the international system, from local to global’ (p. ix). This entails a largely bottom-up approach focused on advancing the common interests on contested issues at the local or regional level.

Recognising scientific management and adaptive governance as ‘ different but not mutually exclusive approaches to simplifying the complex realities of climate change for purposes of understanding and action ’ (p. 103), the authors argue that initiatives based on the established scientific management frame for the most part have restricted the policy focus to only part of the relevant picture. In contrast, adaptive governance provides ‘a means of directing attention to otherwise neglected parts that can help reduce our vulnerability to climate change’ (p. 6). The book provides detailed cases of adaptive governance emerging at the local level almost spontaneously ‘as a loosely coordinated array of pragmatic responses to manifest failures in scientific management’ (p. 5).

This well structured and informative book develops its thesis in five chapters. Chapter 1, ‘Clarifying the problem’ , selectively maps the history of major clima te change initiatives framed in traditional scientific management. It develops an idealised framework that characterises ‘scientific management’ as centralised decision making, technical rationality and extensive science and, in contrast, ‘adaptive management ’ as decentralised decision making, procedural ra tionality and intensive science. It posits an adaptive approach which provides ‘an opportunity for field-testing in parallel and in series thousands of alternatives for adapting to those climate changes we cannot avoid and for mitigating those we can’ (p. 29).

Chapter 2, ‘ The regime evolves ’ , documents the evolution of the established scientific management agenda on climate change and exceptions to it that point towards adaptive governance, which has emerged largely spontaneously and independently of these established agendas. In Chapter 3, ‘ Barr o was microcosm ’ , the authors provide a fascinating, detailed historical account of the experience of the high latitude Barrow community in north Alaska, where climate change is recognised as not an issue but a reality. Arguing this experience is a microcosm of things to come as signs of climate change become more obvious at lower latitudes, the authors show how adaptive governance fostered the necessary diversity and innovation within the Barrow community for climate change adaptation to emerge.

Chapter 4, ‘ Opening the reg ime ’ , draws on historical case material from Barr o w and other places (including Australia) and relevant theoretical material to develop a substantive case for an alternative frame of action on climate change. Arguing that opening up the frame does not mean replacing it, Chapter 5, ‘ Reframing the context ’ , then places adaptive governance ‘ as matters of collective action in the larger contex t of a transition from the relevant past to possible futures ’ (p. 262). It analyses the policies developed in Barrow and other places and proposes that they could be adopted by other communities to address emerging climate change issues. The authors also identify the critical need for incorporating appraisals of community- based initiatives in terms of policy outcomes and processes ‘ that are sensitive to problems likely to arise in a culture of scientific management ’ (p. 270), such as tendencies towards centralised planning, premature programme expansion or subordinate collective problem solving. They also re-emphasise ‘the basic choice is not between scientific management or adaptive governance; as the saying goes, we can walk and chew gum at the same time’ (p. 315).

Although adaptation is now more widely accepted than in the past, it is a relatively neglected area that is constrained by the culture of scientific management. The book concludes that adaptive governance is a change in our way of thinking that can significantly advance understanding and action on climate change for specific contexts. If the book has a shortcoming, it is that it does not venture further and draw on the lessons learned from the cases presented to make recommendations on adaptation strategies for mitigating specific impacts in particular climate change contexts.

Surprisingly, there have been few contributions to the climate change policy debate that provide comprehensive documentation and analysis of historical cases of community experiences in adaptive governance in response to the realities of climate change. This book seeks to fill this void and in so doing it provides a worthwhile read, particularly ‘for those scientists, environmentalists, administrators, policy makers, and other citizens of the world who are sufficiently dissatisfied with disappointing outcomes to date, or sufficiently concerned about the magnitude of the task ahead, to consider changes in business as usual’ (p. 6).

--Jenny Bellamy, The University of, Queensland, # 2011, Jenny Bellamy