UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

In hot water : explaining Vancouver and San Francisco's responses to the impacts of climate change Robertson, Alexandra Hergaarden


In the past decade the scientific literature on climate change has increasingly focused on adaptation to climate change-related hazards and vulnerability. Most of the climate change policies designed thus far in North America have been at the municipal level. One of the most visible impacts of climate change will be an increase in frequency and severity of natural disasters like coastal flooding, heat waves, and drought. Although scholars emphasize the importance of community resilience in responding and recovering from disaster, the majority of these municipal climate change adaptation policies have sought to increase physical, not social, resilience. Vancouver and San Francisco are two cities that have recently begun planning for the impacts of climate change, and both are leaders in mitigation and adaptation planning among North American municipalities. While Vancouver has adopted policies to increase the resilience of physical infrastructure, San Francisco has addressed both the resilience of social and physical infrastructure in its climate change adaptation planning. My thesis will explain this divergence in response to the effects of climate change at the municipal level in Vancouver and San Francisco. I find that differing critical events and policy legacies in the area of disaster management in the past have resulted in Vancouver and San Francisco’s divergent responses to the impacts of climate change today.

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