UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Knowing climate change : modelling, understanding, and managing risk Vadeboncoeur, Nathan Noel


Climate change is a complex problem. Approaches to understanding climate change risk and preparing for its management include assessments of biophysical changes, the influence of public risk perceptions on support for policies aimed at adapting to these changes, and analysis of the governance structures charged with developing and implementing climate action plans. Climate change issues, however, are often approached from a disciplinary perspective and there are few studies examining how climate risk is viewed from multiple perspectives in a particular locale. This thesis takes a bottom-up approach to understanding climate change by focusing on how climate risk is understood on the Sunshine Coast, British Columbia, as a biophysical, social, and governance issue. It begins by surveying the available biophysical information of climate change and presents a sea level rise impact model for the Sunshine Coast. Next, it explores how public perceptions of climate risk (as distinct from climate change knowledge as scientific literacy) develop and how these affect support for climate change policies. It then examines the perspective of a local government, the Town of Gibsons, in planning for climate change adaptation. Here, it focuses on how decision- makers plan for climate change by examining their perspectives on biophysical risks and the social context within which climate issues are located. Throughout the thesis, I argue that the process of adapting to climate change (a risk management strategy) has strongly social roots and that understanding how climate change fits within the context of individual communities is, along with knowledge of biophysical hazards, an essential component of adaptation.

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