Hannah Payne, MCP’16, compared the way sixteen cities have tried to engage the public in climate adaptation planning. She identifies three common approaches: 1) including the public in the formulation of broad adaptation strategies, 2) educating the public about climate risks, and 3) promoting collaborative problem-solving for specific climate resilient projects. According to Hannah’s findings, the third approach is the least used. More important, cities are really struggling to implement even the first two less ambitious approaches. In some cases, cities have postponed any commitment to a participatory and inclusive approach to adaptation planning. Hannah has identified the most common barriers that cities have overcome.
To read the complete stories of what has happened in these cities and Hannah’s recommendation you can download her thesis here.
The vast majority of the effort to confront climate change in America has happened at the state and local level. Hamstrung by political discord and a poor economy, the Federal government has been largely silent in enacting legislation that addresses global warming. One of the best chances and more heartbreaking recent failures was 2010’s American Power Act. Initially a bipartisan proposal of Senators John Kerry, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman, the act sputtered in the Senate after conservative pressure led Senator Graham to rescind his support.
Kate Dineen (MCP ‘11) examines the convergence of forces that opposed the legislation, and she credits Tea Party activists with mobilizing the pressure that forced Graham to withdraw. Her thesis describes the party as a particularly energetic manifestation of political views that are surprisingly grounded in traditional concerns of the Republican party establishment. She also details the robust media and institutional infrastructure that supports and amplifies the efforts of Tea Party populists. These factors combine, Kate shows, to produce a political situation in Washington in which it is difficult for environmental advocates to effectively address climate change through legislation.
While her thesis paints a dark picture of environmentalism’s prospects on the Federal scale, Kate closes with a note of optimism. If populist pressure has been able to pressure the Senate into inaction, perhaps an equal and opposite grassroots force could successfully force it to act. Read more in Kate’s thesis here.