Climate Change Adaptation Planning at the Regional District Scale on Vancouver Island, British Columbia

  • Author / Creator
    Bonnett, Nicole
  • Society is currently faced with the complex and challenging task of responding to global climate change. Contemporary climate impacts include increasing temperatures, melting snow and ice, rising sea levels, and more extreme and variable weather events (IPCC, 2014). Vancouver Island has been subject to a range of climate stressors and exhibits a heightened vulnerability given its extensive coastline, prominence of development along the coast, and greater exposure to climate threats. Local and regional governments have taken the lead on adaptation planning, as climate impacts unfold directly at these scales. The urgency of adaptation has only recently been recognized, largely because of the understanding that an intensification of climate change is inevitable, even with aggressive mitigation efforts. Although British Columbia has emerged as a climate action leader in North America, mitigative efforts far outweigh adaptation at the local and regional scale. This research aims to explore pressing climate stressors on Vancouver Island and climate adaptation planning at the regional district scale in order to better understand the preparedness of local governments for climate variability.
    This study employs a mixed methods approach to explore the research objectives, with a robust data set stemming from semi-structured interviews and a plan content analysis. Resilience theory is used as a conceptual lens to unpack complexities associated with climate threats and local government responses to those climate threats. Results from this study demonstrate that regional districts are vulnerable to more intense and frequent drought and flooding events with these climate stressors having key social, economic, and environmental implications. Research findings also suggest that while most regional districts are aware of the urgency of climate adaptation, mitigation remains the major focus with adaptation addressed in a more indirect manner and implementation lagging in practice. Application of the theoretical framework revealed that a lack of political will and capacity, content of institutions, effect of Bill 27, and authoritative powers of regional districts are critical factors challenging the process of local adaptation planning on Vancouver Island. This research also found that several factors, including environmental awareness, climate change champions, and robust institutions, can facilitate local adaptation planning and resilience building. This study concludes by highlighting the importance of integrating adaptation into strategic planning and policy and proposes recommendations that can be undertaken by decision-makers to enhance local preparedness and resilience to climate variability.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2020
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
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