5B.1 Assessing climate-sensitive sectors, decisions, and peoples in the Carolinas

Tuesday, 19 July 2011: 1:30 PM
Swannanoa (Asheville Renaissance)
Kirsten Lackstrom, Carolinas Integrated Sciences & Assessments, Columbia, SC; and B. Haywood, K. Dow, S. Ferguson, D. Foster, N. Kettle, C. Rappold, and E. Weeks

This paper reports findings from research focused on assessing climate-sensitive sectors, decisions, and peoples in the Carolinas to support the National Climate Assessment. The project was designed to understand the various dimensions of regional capacity to cope with and adapt to climate change. This was accomplished by identifying stakeholders' current and future climate-sensitive decisions, examining the capacities and networks that currently exist to support decision making, and documenting articulated needs to facilitate decision-making and adaptive actions.

Data collection occurred through several stages. The first phase entailed selecting six “sectors” to study: forestry, indigenous populations, tourism and recreation, urban sustainability, water- and wastewater systems, and wildlife and habitat. These sectors were selected based on several criteria. These included their existing or potential sensitivity to climate risks, significance to regional- and local economies, and potential to contribute new knowledge about best climate mitigation or adaptation practices. We also considered issues highlighted by recent national- or regional-level assessments. The second phase involved the development of a comprehensive list of documents related to climate issues and a baseline database of stakeholders currently engaged with climate-related decisions for each sector. The third phase entailed interviews with key opinion leaders and organization representatives in each sector. Interviews were used to verify preliminary conclusions from the document review and analysis conducted in Phase 2 and to obtain recommendations about additional documents, resources, and interviewees that should be included in the study. Documents and interview transcripts were reviewed and coded according to 1) the types of adaptation or mitigation activities occurring in each sector, 2) identified needs and barriers that hinder adaptation actions, 3) recommendations or possible solutions to address adaptation limits and barriers, and 4) the networks that disseminate climate information and data as well as new approaches and ideas regarding adaptation activities.

This paper utilizes a cross-sector comparison to interrogate the various ways in which capacity to respond to climate change has emerged in the Carolinas. The findings of this study underscore the complexity of climate change adaptation planning processes within unique sectors and highlight the challenges inherent in cross-sector, multi-scalar governance structures and processes. The six sectors considered in this research perceive and address climate concerns in different ways, focusing on those climate risks that affect sector-specific interests and projects, such as infrastructure improvements, economic development, environmental regulation, or resource management. For example, water system managers emphasize preparing for increases in and monitoring climate variability and extremes, while the natural resource community demonstrates primary interest in the projected impacts of local or regional climate changes on wildlife and ecosystems. Treatment of mitigation, adaptation, and the relationships between them also differ among sectors. Further still, some sectors deliberately incorporate climate planning into umbrella concepts like sustainability or “green” design. Disparities are also evident in the composition and connectedness of climate planning networks within each sector. Social networks that support and reinforce climate-related decision making processes are examined to identify key “go-to” organizations and scales of decision-making. The nature of these systems, the strength of connections, and the actors involved (private businesses, state or local agencies, NGO's, etc.) influence the priority of recommended actions and the types of questions asked in climate-related planning processes. While varied and distinct approaches to climate change adaptation (and mitigation) are present within these sectors, some consensus does exist regarding critical information gaps, adaptation needs, and action recommendations. For example, decision-makers request regional and local case studies that demonstrate best practices and indicate that a major barrier to adaptation is the lack of formal institutional structures and economic incentives to promote proactive measures. By demonstrating commonalities and synergies across sectors, this research identifies potential opportunities and focal points for regional stakeholders to develop a more integrated approach to capacity-building.

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