Climate change adaptation in Metro Vancouver: examining the role of managed retreat
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Climate changes are intensifying and introducing new flood risks to coastal regions. As a result, past flood risk reduction measures may not be suitable for future sea level rise and climate extremes. Ensuring the resilience of coastal cities will require tough decisions and long-term coastal adaptation strategies. Among the suite of options: avoid, protect, accommodate, and retreat, managed retreat often faces the greatest barriers and the most contention along urbanized shorelines. A region at the forefront of this challenge, Metro Vancouver, British Columbia, must adapt its coastline to sea level rise and coastal change while meeting population and development pressures in highly desirable coastal municipalities. Many municipalities in Metro Vancouver are protected from coastal hazards by hard structural adaptation methods, such as dikes and seawalls. Alternative approaches including soft structural methods such as ecosystem-based designs, and non-structural adaptation methods such as managed retreat, have to date received little consideration, yet are often regarded as flexible, sustainable, and effective adaptation measures in areas vulnerable to sea level rise risk. Through primary data collection involving key informant interviews (n = 27) with actors involved in flood management and coastal adaptation, and review of secondary data, this research explores sea level rise coastal adaptation plans and activities in three of Metro Vancouver’s coastal municipalities: Vancouver, Surrey, and Delta. This thesis responds to recent calls for actor-centred analysis of barriers to climate change adaptation. It presents an in-depth account of the factors that influence structural and non-structural responses, and barriers to managed retreat and coastal adaptation. Findings reveal that structural protect responses will continue to dominate in coastal adaptation, while non-structural approaches are not emphasized. In addition, findings reveal several barriers to coastal adaptation, which constrain the adaptation path even before selecting a specific coastal adaptation option. Furthermore, managed retreat faces numerous barriers and is an unlikely coastal adaptation strategy for the case study municipalities. Managed retreat is likely only to be triggered post disaster. The implications of this study offer insight to coastal adaptation barriers and encourage municipalities to strive for long-term coastal adaptation responses.
Cite this work
Alexandra Rutledge (2018). Climate change adaptation in Metro Vancouver: examining the role of managed retreat. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/12939