1.3 “Wicked” uncertainties in the development of coastal climate change adaptation plans

Monday, 18 July 2011: 11:00 AM
Salon A (Asheville Renaissance)
Nathan Kettle, Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, Fairbanks, AK

Uncertainty is widely considered a major constraint to the development of adaptation planning efforts. Uncertainty can arise from inadequate data and information on how social and environmental conditions may change (e.g., future budgets, political will, temperature change, sea level rise) and from potential impacts that arise from changing conditions (e.g., salt water intrusion or economic loss). There are also uncertainties within different stages of the decision making process such as agreeing on how the environment is changing and what actions are required to address these threats. Yet our knowledge of which areas of understanding have the greatest level of uncertainty and constraint to development of adaptation plans remains limited. Developing a more comprehensive understanding of these uncertainties, and how they vary across levels of governance, is likely to improve the capacity of decision makers to plan for climate change.

This study identifies which areas of understanding have the greatest level of uncertainty and constraint to the development of climate change adaptation plans. These areas of understanding are described as “wicked” uncertainties. A web-based survey was sent to approximately 90 coastal managers across South Carolina. Managers included city planners and engineers, county planners, non-governmental associations, and division heads of state government offices. This group was selected given their importance in developing climate change adaptation plans and their limited participation in previous coastal survey-based research. Results indicate that some uncertainties are perceived as more ‘wicked' than others regarding their level of uncertainty and constraint on developing adaptation plans, and manager perceptions vary across levels of governance.

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