Contested Values and Practices in Coastal Adaptation to Climate Change

Frick, Fanny
RADOST Journal Series, Report No. 18





Contested values and practices in coastal adaptation to climate change
- The role of socio-cultural construction in decision making for adaptation to climate change and sea level rise in three US states -
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the MSc Environment and Sustainable Development at the Development Planning Unit, University College London
Experience from adaptation to climate change at community level shows that high levels of adaptive capacity are often not used for adaptive action, and therefore communities remain vulnerable. This thesis is looking at the socio-cultural construction of values and practices that influence risk perceptions and behavioural intentions in coastal management and adaptation to climate change in three states on the US mid-Atlantic coast. Three local newspapers are analysed based on Bourdieu’s field theory. Influences of cultural differences on coastal zone management in the study area are identified from a literature review and a survey among decision-makers in coastal management in the study area. The survey was carried out by Nicolas School of the Environment at Duke University and Ecologic Institute during three workshops held in Annapolis, Maryland, Beaufort, North Carolina, and Charleston, South Carolina in April 2012. The results demonstrate that risk ownership, knowledge on climate change, trust in science and politics and values are four major spaces where divergent opinions on climate change and coastal management are discussed. There are local differences in the manifestation of these contestations for implementation of strategies for adaptation to sea level rise, coastal change and adaptation to climate change. The findings show that across the study area, currently dominating values and practices hinder the implementation of strategies in adaptation to climate change. While supportive attitudes are also present, they often do not enter the decision-making process under its current design.
The dissertation was written by Fanny Frick between June and September, 2012 at the Development Planning Unit of University College London and supervised by Dr David Dodman (IIED) and Dr. Grit Martinez (Ecologic Institute).