Are local climate adaptation policies credible? A conceptual and operational assessment framework

2019 March 5

Olazabal, M., Galarraga, I., Ford, J., Sainz de Murieta, E. and Lesnikowski, A. (2019). Are local climate adaptation policies credible? A conceptual and operational assessment frameworkInternational Journal of Urban Sustainable Development, article online.


After the Paris Agreement that put stronger emphasis on the development of climate change adaptation policies and on the definition of financing mechanisms, there is a patent need to track whether actual planning efforts are proving sufficient. This entails the development of assessment methods and metrics as plans are drafted and actions implemented. To this end, this paper explores the concept of credibility as a critical issue in climate policy and develops an Adaptation Policy Credibility (APC) conceptual and operational assessment framework for helping to allocate public funding and private investments, and for implementing and catalysing climate policy. Through a pilot testing in four early-adopting cities (Copenhagen, Durban, Quito and Vancouver), a clear potential for large-n tracking and assessment exercises of local climate adaptation plans is envisaged. The APC approach might also be useful to guide individual cities that aim to improve their adaptation planning and policy-making processes.

Frontiers in data analytics for adaptation research: Topic modeling

2019 February 28

Lesnikowski, A., Belfer, E., Rodman, E., Smith, J., Biesbroek, R., Wilkerson, J.D., Ford, J.D., Berrang-Ford, L. (2019). Frontiers in data analytics for adaptation research: Topic modeling. WIREs Climate Change, article online.


Rapid growth over the past two decades in digitized textual information represents untapped potential for methodological innovations in the adaptation governance literature that draw on machine learning approaches already being applied in other areas of computational social sciences. This Focus Article explores the potential for text mining techniques, specifically topic modeling, to leverage this data for large‐scale analysis of the content of adaptation policy documents. We provide an overview of the assumptions and procedures that underlie the use of topic modeling, and discuss key areas in the adaptation governance literature where topic modeling could provide valuable insights. We demonstrate the diversity of potential applications for topic modeling with two examples that examine: (a) how adaptation is being talked about by political leaders in United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; and (b) how adaptation is being discussed by decision‐makers and public administrators in Canadian municipalities using documents collected from 25 city council archives.

How do Canadian media report climate change impacts on health? A newspaper review

2019 February 26

King N., Bishop-Williams K., Beauchamp S., Ford J., Berrang Ford L., Cunsolo A., IHACC Research Team, Harper S. (2019) How do Canadian media report climate change impacts on health? A newspaper review. Climatic Change,  article number.


Research on climate change media coverage is growing. Few studies, however, have investigated how the media portrays climate change impacts on human health. This review, therefore, presents a quantitative spatiotemporal analysis of Canadian newspaper coverage of climate change impacts on health between 2005 and 2015. Using the ProQuest® and Eureka®databases, a multiphase systematic review strategy was employed to identify relevant English and French articles from two national and six regional high-circulation newspapers. Quantitative and qualitative data were extracted from 145 articles and analyzed to characterize the range, extent, and nature of climate-health newspaper coverage in Canada and to compare these characteristics by region and over time. Coverage varied by region, with the highest proportion of climate-health coverage in Northern Territories (Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut). Over time, there was a decreasing publication frequency trend. Almost all articles described negative climate change impacts on health, with a predominant focus on infectious and chronic noninfectious diseases; however, less than half of the articles discussed climate change solutions. These trends suggest that current media coverage might not drive widespread public support for policies and actions needed to protect against projected climate-health risks. Consequently, as climate change continues to challenge human health, increasing media emphasis on climate change impacts on human health, as well as a shift toward enabling and empowering climate change communication, in which viable mitigation and adaptation options are emphasized, could help to spur action to reduce climate change health risks.

Pursuing an Indigenous Platform: Exploring Opportunities and Constraints for Indigenous Participation in the UNFCCC

2019 February 5

Belfer, E., Ford, J.D., Maillet, M., Aaros, M. and Flynn, M. (2019). Pursuing and Indigenous Platform: Exploring Opportunities and Constraints for Indigenous Participation in the UNFCCCGlobal Environmental Politics, article online.

Despite growing consensus that Indigenous peoples, knowledge systems, rights and solutions should be meaningfully included in international climate change governance, substantive improvements in practice remain limited. An expanding body of scholarship examines the evolving discursive space in which issues facing Indigenous peoples are treated, with a predominant focus on decision outcomes of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC). To understand the opportunities and constraints for meaningful participation of Indigenous peoples in international climate policy making, this article examines the experiences of Indigenous participants in the UNFCCC. We present findings from semistructured interviews with key informants, showing that material constraints and the designation of Indigenous peoples as nonstate observers continue to pose challenges for participants. Tokenism and a lack of meaningful recognition further constrain participation. Nevertheless, networks of resource sharing, coordination, and support organized among Indigenous delegates alleviate some of the impacts of constraints. Additionally, multistakeholder alliances and access to presidencies and high-level state delegates provide opportunities for international and national agenda-setting. The space available for Indigenous participation in the UNFCCC is larger than formal rules dictate but depends on personal relationships and political will. As the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform established by the Paris Agreement formalizes a distinct space for Indigenous participants in the UNFCCC, this article outlines existing opportunities and constraints and considers potential interactions between the evolving platform and existing mechanisms for participation.

James at Arctic Frontiers this week

2019 January 21



James will be at Arctic Frontiers in Tromso this week. He was part of a plenary session on smart and resilient Arctic societies on Monday and will be at the conference until Thursday