Adaptation through local planning


Local landuse and municipal planning represent important avenues for adaptation to global warming. These forms of planning are recognised as central to avoiding the impacts of climate related hazards such as floods and heat stress, planning for demographic and consumption transition, and plans for ecosystem conservation(Tompkins, Adger 2004). This type of planning is different from the National Adaptation Programs of Action (NAPAs) which are intended to be frameworks for prioritizing adaptation needs (Tompkins 2005). At the local scale, municipalities are at the coal face of adaptation where impacts are experienced in the forms of inundation, bushfires, heatwaves and rising sea levels (Preston et al. 2009).
Cities are planning for adapting to global warming and climate change. The New York Times began a series of articles on this subject with Chicago's adaptation initiatives being highlighted.[51] Projects include changing to heat tolerant tree varieties, changing to water permeable pavements to absorb higher rainfalls and adding air conditioning in public schools. New York and other cities are involved in similar planning (Koch, Wendy 2011; Revkin 2011; Scientific 2011). Carefully planned water storage could help urban areas adapt to increasingly severe storms by increasing rainwater storage (domestic water butts, unpaved gardens etc.) and increasing the capacity of stormwater systems (and also separating stormwater from blackwater, so that overflows in peak periods do not contaminate rivers). According to English Nature, gardeners can help mitigate the effects of climate change by providing habitats for the most threatened species, and/or saving water by changing gardens to use plants which require less (Jowit 2006).
Adaptation through local planning occurs in two distinct modes. The first is strategic planning, which is important but not unique to local governments. At the local scale it fosters community vision, aspirational goals and place-making, along with defining pathways to achieve these goals. The second form is land-use planning, and is focused on the allocation of space to balance economic prosperity with acceptable living standards and the conservation of natural resources. Although these two types of planning are quite different in practice, and in many cases are managed by different departments, we propose that both are highly important to climate change adaptation, and can contribute to achieving adaptation at the local scale (Selman 1996). Significant constraints are recognised to hinder adaptation through planning, including limited resources, lack of information, competing planning agendas and complying with requirements from other levels of government (Measham et al. 2011).
Planning for rising sea levels is one of the key challenges for local planning in response to climate change. Many national governments around the world have attempted to address the problem of rising sea levels through policy and planning reforms designed to increase adaptive capacity (Antarctic… 2011). In the United States, many state and local governments are now assessing innovative, locality-specific options for sea-level rise adaptation (Grannis et al. 2012).
Tompkins EL, Adger WN (2004) Does adaptive management of natural resources enhance resilience to climate change? Ecology and Society 9(2):10 [online]
Tompkins EL (2005) Planning for climate change in small islands: Insights from national hurricane preparedness in the Cayman Islands: adaptation to climate change: perspectives across Scales. Glob Environ Change 15 (2):139-149.
Preston, B.L., Brooke, C., Measham, T.G., Smith, T.F., Gorddard, R. (2009) Igniting change in local government: Lessons learned from a bushfire vulnerability assessment. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 14 (3) pp. 251-283
City Prepares for a Warm Long-Term Forecast New York Times May 22, 2011.
Koch, Wendy (2011-08-15). "Cities combat climate change". USA Today.
Revkin, Andrew C. (2011-05-23). "Cities Embrace the Adaptation Imperative". The New York Times.
Scientific. 2011.
Jowit, Juliette (2006-06-11). "Gardeners can slow climate change". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-04-23.
Selman PH (1996) Local sustainability: managing and planning ecologically sound places. Paul Chapman Publishing, London.
Measham T.G., Preston B.L., Smith T.F., Brooke C., Gorddard R. Withycombe G., and Morrison C. (2011) Adapting to climate change through local municipal planning: barriers and challenges, Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, online:
Antarctic, Climate and Ecosystems CRC (2011), University of Tasmania – Hobart, Australia,
Grannis, J., Wyman, J., Singer, M., Shoaf, J., Lynch, C. 2012. Coastal Management in the Face of Rising Seas: Legal Strategies for Connecticut, 5 Sea Grant L. & Pol'y 59 (2012),