Identifying Legal, Ecological and Governance Obstacles, and Opportunities for Adapting to Climate Change

Sustainability, 6, 2338-2356, 2014, DOI:10.3390/su6042338

19 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2014

See all articles by Barbara A. Cosens

Barbara A. Cosens

University of Idaho - College of Law

Lance Gunderson

Emory University - Department of Environmental Studies

Craig Allen

Leader of the Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

Melinda Morgan

Geography & Environmental Studies

Date Written: April 22, 2014

Abstract

Current governance of regional scale water management systems in the United States has not placed them on a path toward sustainability, as conflict and gridlock characterize the social arena and ecosystem services continue to erode. Changing climate may continue this trajectory, but it also provides a catalyst for renewal of ecosystems and a window of opportunity for change in institutions. Resilience provides a bridging concept that predicts that change in ecological and social systems is often dramatic, abrupt, and surprising. Adapting to the uncertainty of climate driven change must be done in a manner perceived as legitimate by the participants in a democratic society. Adaptation must begin with the current hierarchical and fragmented social-ecological system as a baseline from which new approaches must be applied. Achieving a level of integration between ecological concepts and governance requires a dialogue across multiple disciplines, including ecologists with expertise in ecological resilience, hydrologists and climate experts, with social scientists and legal scholars. Criteria and models that link ecological dynamics with policies in complex, multi-jurisdictional water basins with adaptive management and governance frameworks may move these social-ecological systems toward greater sustainability.

Keywords: adaptive governance; ecological resilience; water law; sustainability

Suggested Citation

Cosens, Barbara A. and Gunderson, Lance and Allen, Craig and Morgan, Melinda, Identifying Legal, Ecological and Governance Obstacles, and Opportunities for Adapting to Climate Change (April 22, 2014). Sustainability, 6, 2338-2356, 2014, DOI:10.3390/su6042338, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2447114

Barbara A. Cosens (Contact Author)

University of Idaho - College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 442321
Moscow, ID 83844-2321
United States
208 885-6298 (Phone)
208 885-2859 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.uidaho.edu/law/people/faculty/bcosens

Lance Gunderson

Emory University - Department of Environmental Studies ( email )

Mathematics Center
400 Dowman Drive
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-2429 (Phone)

Craig Allen

Leader of the Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit ( email )

Lincoln, NE
United States

Melinda Morgan

Geography & Environmental Studies

Albuquerque, NM 87131-1221
United States

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