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What can the management of drought in US cities can teach us about the dynamics of vulnerability and adapting to climate change?

Wednesday 10 May 2017, 16.00-17.15
School of Earth and Environment, Seminar Rooms 8.119/a/b
Lisa Dilling, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, University of Colorado, Boulder
Sustainability Seminar hosted by SRI, Priestley International Centre for Climate, CCCEP & Water@Leeds


Managers in the U.S. have been adapting urban water systems to drought for many years, implementing a combination of supply, demand and governance mechanisms to cope with climate and water variability and (often) increasing population. We are interested in the question of how these adaptive measures prepare systems for climate change, and what these adaptive measures tell us about the dynamics of vulnerability.  In this talk, we review why the dynamics of vulnerability matter for adaptation efforts.  We draw on vulnerability theory and the natural hazards and climate adaptation literatures to outline how adaptation to climate variability, combined with the shifting societal landscape can sometimes lead to unintended consequences or shifting vulnerabilities. We examine drought management in 19 cities across the U.S., including three in-depth case studies, to identify how the dynamics of vulnerability might play out in the context of adaptation success.  We suggest that there is a need for greater engagement with various publics on the tradeoffs involved in adaptation action and for improving communication about the complicated nature of the dynamics of vulnerability.


Lisa Dilling is Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, a Fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) and a member of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She is Director of the Western Water Assessment, a NOAA Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessment project that studies and facilitates the use of climate information in decision making in the Intermountain West. Her scholarship focuses on decision making, the use of information and science policies related to climate change, adaptation, carbon management and geoengineering.  Her current projects examine drought in urban water systems, water governance and climate change, municipal adaptation to hazards, decision making in public lands management, and knowledge for adaptation among pastoralists. She has authored numerous articles and is co-editor of the book, “Creating a Climate for Change: Communicating climate change and facilitating social change” from Cambridge University Press.  Professor Dilling is visiting InSIS at the University of Oxford in 2016-2017 on a sabbatical supported by a Leverhulme Visiting Professorship.