Maintaining Resilience in the Face of Climate Change
Chapter 8 in Social-Ecological Resilience and Law (Ahjond S. Garmestani & Craig R. Allen eds., 2014).
Climate change, when combined with more conventional stress from human exploitation, calls into question the capacity of both existing ecological communities and resource management institutions to experience disturbances while substantially retaining their same functions and identities. In other words, the physical and biological effects of climate change raise fundamental challenges to the resilience of natural ecosystems. Perhaps more importantly, the projected scope of ecological shifts from global climate change — and uncertainty about such changes — significantly stresses the capacity of legal institutions to manage ecosystem change. Existing governmental institutions lack the adaptive capacity to manage such substantial changes to ecological and legal systems. In particular, regulators and managers lack information about ecological effects and alternative management strategies for managing the effects of climate change, as well as the institutional infrastructure for obtaining such information.
A number of recent initiatives have been proposed to address the effects of climate change on ecological systems. However, these nascent programs do not fully meet the needs for developing adaptive capacity. A federal, publicly accessible, and system-wide portal and clearinghouse will help regulators at all levels of government manage the effects and uncertainty from climate change. Such an information infrastructure, combined with a range of incentives that encourage regulators to engage in adaptive management and programmatic adjustment over time, will help governmental and private institutions become more resilient and capable of managing the physical and human institutional effects of changing climate.