Article | Published:

Numerous strategies but limited implementation guidance in US local adaptation plans

Nature Climate Change volume 6, pages 796802 (2016) | Download Citation

Abstract

Adaptation planning offers a promising approach for identifying and devising solutions to address local climate change impacts. Yet there is little empirical understanding of the content and quality of these plans. We use content analysis to evaluate 44 local adaptation plans in the United States and multivariate regression to examine how plan quality varies across communities. We find that plans draw on multiple data sources to analyse future climate impacts and include a breadth of strategies. Most plans, however, fail to prioritize impacts and strategies or provide detailed implementation processes, raising concerns about whether adaptation plans will translate into on-the-ground reductions in vulnerability. Our analysis also finds that plans authored by the planning department and those that engaged elected officials in the planning process were of higher quality. The results provide important insights for practitioners, policymakers and scientists wanting to improve local climate adaptation planning and action.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank our dissertation committees—T. BenDor (UNC), P. Berke (TAMU), R. Bierbaum (UM), L. Hoey (UM), P. Jagger (UNC), L. Larsen (UM), M. Lemos (UM), L. Moore (UNC) and G. Smith (UNC)—who provided support and extensive friendly review. Partial financial support for this research was provided by the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Curriculum for the Environment and Ecology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Venable Hall, Campus Box #3275 Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-3275, USA

    • Sierra C. Woodruff
  2. Urban and Regional Planning Program and School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan, 440 Church Street Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA

    • Missy Stults

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Contributions

Both authors contributed extensively to this work. S.C.W. and M.S. jointly designed and tested the coding protocol and coded the plans in the sample. S.C.W. took the lead on compiling and analysing the data. Both authors contributed to writing and developing the manuscript at all stages.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sierra C. Woodruff.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3012

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