First Advisor

Vivek Shandas

Date of Publication

Winter 1-9-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies and Planning




Sea level -- Florida -- Miami-Dade County -- Case studies, Risk perception, Climatic changes -- Risk management -- Florida -- Miami-Dade County, Environmental policy



Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 286 pages)


As coastal cities around the world identify and implement adaptations to sea level rise, they are faced with competing interests around what should be done and how to prioritize actions. Often, environmental problems--like confronting the challenge of sea level rise--are posed as requiring expert driven, technical solutions to identify and mitigate risks across the landscape. This framing, however, ignores the way in which diverse knowledge can help inform long-term planning horizons that address complex ways that sea level rise affects communities. The failure to integrate diverse knowledge into sea level rise adaptation can result in barriers to implementation and outcomes that can reproduce inequities. In environmental planning, knowledge integration challenges can stem from ambiguity around the construction of environmental risk knowledge, as well as institutional arrangements that inhibit diverse involvement. Ambiguity refers to a context in which there are different and sometimes conflicting views on how to understand the problem or system to be managed, for example, conflicts around what risks to measure and how to measure them. This manifests in the ways that different groups construct and use knowledge about risks. Often ignored in planning contexts and research on sea level rise adaptation, ambiguity--particularly around social risks--are critical to address, since they can determine whether diverse knowledge about risks are integrated or ignored in planning. This dissertation uses a case study of Miami-Dade County, Florida and is guided by the question: how do different groups understand risk within sea level rise, and what planning and governance factors influence the way diverse dimensions of risk are integrated into adaptation strategies? Findings from this case study suggest that baselines, projections, and the focus of risk rooted in an economic discourse based on short-term planning horizons and technical constructions of risk have more authority as compared with counter arguments around ecological and social risks. Recommendations include the need for transparent adaptation decisions and the inclusion of diverse stakeholders in the production of regional climate science, sea level rise assessments, and adaptation planning. A more integrated approach can better address diverse risks and facilitate long-term planning.


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