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Session Recap Natural Resource Security, Energy, and Environmental Policy

November 13, 2014 12:00 PM

By Kharaam Sharifpour, University of Southern California

The four papers presented in the session Natural Resource Security, Energy, and Environmental Policy focused on the adaptation to, management of, and planning for the chaos created by natural disasters. This panel was organized by Leigh Graham, Assistant Professor at the City University of New York, and chaired by David Konisky, Associate Professor of Public Policy at Georgetown University.

The first presentation, Adapting Energy Systems for Climate Instability: Learning from Superstorm Sandy, studies the preparedness and response of electrical systems after Hurricane Sandy. Climate adaptation was also brought to the audience’s attention. This particular research was conducted over 39 focus groups as well as media analysis to assess different stakeholders’ mindset about preparedness for and adaptation to climate change. The results show varied response and mitigation measures taken by different states. In addition, there is significant difference in the goals of stakeholders. For example, the focus group of electrical engineers was partially satisfied by the speed at which they were able to turn the lights back on considering the damage and available resources. On other hand, some people and politicians were not so sure if the response was adequately fast. This paper was presented by Elizabeth Wilson, Associate Professor at University of Minnesota, and was co-authored by Tarla Rai Paterson (Professor at Texas A&M University), Jennie C. Stephens (Department of International Development, Community and Environment, Clark University) and Andrea Feldpausch-Parker (Associate Professor at University of New York).

Elizabeth A. Albright, Assistant Professor at Duke University, presented the second paper, Policy Learning and Political Context: Analyzing Responses to Colorado's Extreme Flood Events of 2013. Regional flood response is influenced by the policy learning process namely with changes in beliefs, attitudes, behavior and goals. This learning has the potential to translate into policy changes that can increase community resiliency. By studying variables such as transparency in policy processes and changes in resource availability and beliefs, we hope to better understand policy learning. The research was done in the three most flood-stricken parts of the Colorado counties and by reviewing planning documents, interviews with stakeholders, and surveys. The degree of transparency and public participation was shown to be greatly influenced by the type of damage. Damages are also important to people’s flood risk perception and beliefs about the causes and consequences of the problem. Past flood experience incites more active participation in the recovery process. Deserai A. Crow, Assistant Professor at University of Colorado, Boulder is the co-author of this paper.

The next paper discussed the Rockaway peninsula, located on Long Island, New York. It has a mixture of lower, middle, and upper-class neighborhoods. The disparity between these neighbors can make the people feel segregated especially when it comes to response and recovery after disasters. The entire Rockaway peninsula is fairly ecologically vulnerable to geographical and climate change disasters. In the eastern section, home to lower-income African-American and Hispanic populations, public housing projects and dumping grounds can be seen. There is also lack of jobs. On the west side, however, the predominantly Caucasian people live in big houses and mostly work in the public sector. Studies show that the recovery programs often come short on property restoration efforts. There have also been some problems with the speed of repairs in some areas. Considering the boardwalk reconstruction, there are also different ideas as some people see it as the current wall of their yards while for others it is an opportunity that can bring about property protection, jobs, and recreational activities. Assistant Professor at the City University of New York, Leigh Graham, and Bryce Dubois, a Doctoral Candidate at the same institution, are the authors of The Rockways’ Place on the Map: Civic Disparities in Climate Adaptation Policymaking and Planning.

In the paper Stakeholder Engagement & Comprehensive Sustainability in Local Government: A Case Study of Ventura County, Manal M. Bahobeshi examines the commitment and engagement of local government in sustainability–related policies, particularly Global Climate Action Plans. Although not mandatory, communities are encouraged to implement and monitor these plans. The relationship between the local government engagement and the effective implementation of these policies is investigated in this paper. The degree to which sustainability–related policies are integrated with economics, environment and social equity, is also studied. An original survey was conducted to gather data from 75 local government managers and directors. The results suggest that a more active local government stakeholder corresponds to a greater level of commitment and more effective implementation. The sustainability–related policies were also found to prioritize economic concerns over environmental and even more so over social equity. It was also seen that in some cases, there were either no policies in place, or they were not being adequately staffed. Manal M. Bahobeshi, a Master’s student at California Lutheran University, was joined on this paper by Andrew Pattison, a visiting instructor at the same university.

An important note added by the discussant, Saba Siddikki, was that we need consider when the policies were adopted and implemented to more accurately compare their effectiveness. She also suggested that the causal relationship between the risk perception and preparedness be studied to address how policy changes. Siddikki is an Assistant Professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. The overall implication of the session is that better comprehension and experience of disasters can help adopt and implement more effective mitigation, response, and recovery plans.


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