Article | Published:

Managed retreat as a response to natural hazard risk

Nature Climate Change volume 7, pages 364370 (2017) | Download Citation

Abstract

Managed retreat is a potentially important climate change adaptation option, providing an alternative to structural protection or accommodation measures to manage natural hazard risk. However, its application faces challenges given the projected scale of climate-induced displacement and the difficulties of resettlement. We evaluate the drivers, barriers and outcomes of 27 recent cases of managed retreat that have resettled approximately 1.3 million people. A conceptual model based on two key factors—who benefits from retreat and who initiates it—organizes the diverse set of cases into four quadrants. Different sociopolitical dimensions emerge as particularly influential in each quadrant. The model establishes a foundation for understanding and anticipating case-specific complexities. It can be used to unpack the landscape of managed retreat and evaluate its potential future applications.

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Acknowledgements

We thank J. Barnett, V. Burkett, T. Chapin, K. Dow, R. Lempert, N. Mimura, B. Preston, A. Reisinger and A. Webb for feedback on an earlier draft. M.H. is financially supported through the Sykes Family Fellowship in Stanford’s Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources. K.J.M. is supported by funding from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

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Affiliations

  1. Stanford University, Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, 473 Via Ortega, Y2E2 Suite 226, Stanford, California 94305, USA

    • Miyuki Hino
  2. Stanford University, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, 473 Via Ortega, Stanford, California 94305, USA

    • Christopher B. Field
  3. Stanford University, Department of Earth System Science, 473 Via Ortega, Stanford, California 94305, USA

    • Katharine J. Mach

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Contributions

M.H., K.J.M. and C.B.F. conceived the research and developed the conceptual model. M.H. collected and analysed data. M.H. wrote the paper with discussions with and inputs from K.J.M. and C.B.F.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Miyuki Hino.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3252