Identifying and Overcoming Barriers to Climate Change Adaptation in San Francisco Bay: Results from Case Studies

This white paper from the California Energy Commission's California Climate Change Center, examines five case studies from the San Francisco Bay region (Hayward, San Francisco, Santa Clara and Marin Counties, and the regional adaptation process) to identify the ongoing adaptation processes, the climate adaptation barriers encountered by local government entities, and further develop a diagnostic framework for managing these barriers. Relevant data were collected through key informant interviews, public documents, observation of and/or participation in public meetings, and a statewide survey. The report was prepared by Susanne Moser Research and Consulting, Stanford University, and the University of California, Berkeley. 

Prior to this study, the researchers developed a theory-based framework for identifying and organizing barriers to adaptation based on a review of the relevant literature and step-wide procedure to identify and organize potential barriers (Ekstrom, Moser and Torn, 2011). This study empirically tests the framework’s robustness and practical usefulness in the context of the regional focus on the San Francisco Bay.

The paper first lays out in detail the research approach, methodology, data collection and analysis. A summary of the potential threats from climate change that the Bay Area faces, as well as social vulnerability to these effects is considered. The report describes the adaptation processes identified for the four local case studies and the regional adaptation policy development study; presents extensive analysis of the barriers found in each; and includes details on what helped avoid or overcome certain barriers encountered. The diagnostic framework utilized for this study is then assessed for its effectiveness. In conclusion, future research directions and recommendations for local, regional, state and federal policy-makers are suggested. 

The research goals of this project included developing larger lessons about the adaptation process and the importance of adaptation barriers - even in highly developed nations - for the scientific community in terms of future research priorities, and for policy-makers. Generally, the study found growing, but still very limited activities through the case studies. Institutional and attitudinal barriers dominate, but economic barriers are also important, even in wealthy locales, while policy and planning opportunities were significant in motivating or launching the adaptation process. The study also found that communities have assets, aids, and advantages that can help them avoid barriers, and that there is significant opportunity to affect and overcome the barriers to adaptive progress. With still very little visible adaptation activity “on the ground,” the study concluded that a big portion of what communities are doing to date is working on overcoming the barriers to adaptation instead.




Publication Date: July 2012

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