December 1, 2010
Arnold on Climate Change, Water, and Adaptive Law
Craig Anthony (Tony) Arnold (Louisville) served last spring as a visiting professor at the University of Houston, where he organized an excellent symposium on Climate Change, Water, and Adaptive Law, with participation from Robin Kundis Craig, Noah Hall, Dan Tarlock, Elizabeth Burleson, Lea Rachel Kosnick, and Kathleen Miller. Prof. Arnold has recently posted two pieces from the symposium issue, published in the Environmental and Energy Law and Policy Journal, Vol. 5 (2010).
The introductory essay is Law's Adaptive Capacity and Climate Change's Impacts on Water. The abstract:
This is an introductory essay to a symposium on Climate Change, Water, and Adaptive Law, held at the University of Houston Law Center in February 2010 and published in the Environmental and Energy Law and Policy Journal. It contends that changing climate conditions are creating pressures on water law, policy, and management institutions to adapt and questions whether these institutions have the capacity to adapt to climate change. It describes four major effects of climate change as they relate to water resources: 1) precipitation effects; 2) environmental and landscape structural effects; 3) behavioral response effects; and 4) institutional response effects. The essay then describes two articles addressing the dynamics of cross-jurisdictional scale: one by Robin Kundis Craig and one by Noah Hall; two articles addressing cross-sector interrelationships among water and energy: one by Dan Tarlock and one by Lea Rachel Kosnik; and three articles analyzing the adequacy and adaptability of existing trends in decentralized water planning and management: one by Kathleen Miller, one by Tony Arnold, and one by Elizabeth Burleson. The essay then comments on the themes of fragmentation and integration in the context of the systemic evolution and emergence of water law institutions.
Prof. Arnold's own contribution to the symposium is his article Adaptive Watershed Planning and Climate Change. The abstract:
Few phenomena make the case for adaptive ecosystem management quite as well as climate change, the hydrological effects of which will upset settled expectations and require water institutions to adapt. The effects of climate change will be felt at multiple hydrological, geographic, and institutional scales that transcend specific water sources or political and legal jurisdictions. Moreover, the effects will be uncertain, complex, and frequently changing. Thus, water resources should be managed at watershed scales, and this management should use the adaptive management methods of flexibility, experimentation, and learning through iterative processes of managing environmental conditions and programs.
However, the adaptive ecosystem management concept has had the unfortunate effect of de-emphasizing or even rejecting the role of planning in shaping the relationships between human actions and ecological conditions. Too little attention has been given to the role of planning in adaptation and ecosystem management. A concept of "adaptive planning" is not only consistent with adaptive ecosystem management, but could actually improve adaptive ecosystem management methods and the capacity of institutions to engage in adaptive ecosystem management effectively. Moreover, a growing number of watershed plans are exhibiting some characteristics of adaptive planning, particularly with respect to the effects of climate change on watersheds and water resources.
This article explores the role of adaptive watershed planning in adapting to climate change. Adaptive watershed management requires the use of adaptive planning methods, not merely ad hoc, reactive experimentalism and incrementalism. Without some process of planning, Charles Lindblom’s “science of muddling through” becomes "the science of drifting along." Adaptive planning gives some direction and focus to adaptive ecosystem management activities. Furthermore, adaptive watershed planning can improve not only adaptive watershed management methods, but also the content and effectiveness of watershed plans themselves. If watershed plans are to be useful, they must contemplate the uncertainties associated with climate change and its effects.
In addition to describing the theory and features of adaptive planning and applying adaptive planning principles to watershed planning and management, this article also explores examples of watershed plans in the U.S. and Canada that have addressed climate change and analyzes a number of issues in adaptive watershed planning, including barriers to, and opportunities for, the increased and improved use of adaptive watershed planning to improve the capacity of watershed institutions to adapt to climate change.
Check out all of the articles from this interesting event when they are published by Environmental and Energy Law & Policy. It was great to have Tony Arnold down in Houston last spring to organize this event, with the side benefit of bringing him over to South Texas for our Land Use in the Unzoned City forum!
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