Sep 27 2013


Reviewed by Danya Rumore, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Moser and Boykoff address the question of what successful adaptation would look like by delving into the various definitions of success (including the economic, political, institutional, ecological, and social dimensions) to help shed light on the complexity of the situation.

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Successful Adaptation to Climate Change: Linking Science and Practice in a Rapidly Changing World, Edited by Susanne Moser and Maxwell Boykoff, Routledge, 2013, 331 pp.

Planning and preparing for the impacts of climate change are among the most pressing concerns of the 21st century. However, while the importance of climate change adaptation is increasingly clear, there is little clear guidance on what “successful adaptation” means. What should planners, policy-makers, and other professionals working on adaptation aim to accomplish? How should we as a society judge our success in managing the risks associated with climate change? What tools, techniques, and processes are crucial to effective adaptation? These are the questions that adaptation scholars and practitioners take up in Susanne Moser’s and Maxwell Boykoff’s edited volume Successful Adaptation to Climate Change.

Through case studies ranging from adaptation efforts in the San Francisco Bay area to risk communication efforts in the Mekong Region, the authors explore the tricky terrain of adaptation. They don’t try to provide a single, concrete answer to the question of “What is adaptation success?” Rather, the contributors try to help readers understand the challenges and opportunities inherent in adaptation decision-making. They make clear that “adaptation success” is context-specific and socially defined. And, they provide encouraging evidence that effective solutions can be found.

With fresh examples and interdisciplinary research from across the world, Successful Adaptation to Climate Change offers a thorough if not entirely comprehensive view of the adaptation landscape. The book’s chapters take on issues spanning from science-policy interactions to effective communication and engagement, drawing on empirical data and experiences to infer lessons learned. From the case studies, a number of valuable themes emerge, such as the importance of meaningfully engaging those likely to be affected by climate change impacts and adaptation decisions; the need for more effective decision-support systems that can feed relevant science and information into planning and decision-making; and the necessity of institutionalizing systems for monitoring, evaluating, and learning from adaptation practice. Perhaps the most striking take away for many readers is the conclusion that—as explicitly stated by Lisa Dilling and Rebecca Romsdahl in their chapter on “Promoting adaptation success in natural resource management through decision support”—investing in people and effective institutions is likely to be as important to successful adaptation as investing in scientific data and technical tools.

Successful Adaptation to Climate Change, while very accessible, is largely academic in tone and provides more in the way of big picture guidance than specific advice for those facing on-the-ground decisions. Hence, it is likely to be more relevant for academics, students, and those working at the science-policy interface than for most planners and policy-makers. However, in providing one of the most comprehensive overviews of adaptation concerns, research, and action on the ground to date, the book has valuable lessons for anyone working to support effective adaptation.



Sep 27 2013


Reviewed by Isabelle Anguelovski, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This book, co-edited by Hernan Casakin and Fátima Bernardo, looks into the role of place identity in shaping a person’s perception, understanding and appreciation of their physical environment.

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The Role of Place Identity in the Perception, Understanding, and Design of Built Environments, Edited by Hernan Casakin and Fátima Bernardo, Bentham Science, 2012, 231 pp.

How are place attachment, sense of belonging, and place identity relevant to the experience of residents, urban planners, and architects in the built environment? A number of disciplines ranging from environmental psychology, geography, urban sociology, architecture, or urban planning have engaged at length with the concept of place identity – that is the part of our personal identity through which people express their belonging to a specific place. However, to date little attention has been paid to the relationships between identity, place, and urban design and planning. This is an important gap in theory, empirical research, and practice-oriented work that the wide diversity of chapters in The Role of Place Identity in the Perception, Understanding, and Design of Built Environments attempt to fill.

Not only does this volume provide insights into the diverse ways through which people experience their city or neighborhood and the ties they weave with it despite disruptions, change, and new developments. The authors also offer in-depth analysis about place (re)creation over time and the specific role of architects, developers, and policies (such as overcrowding ordinances, zoning, urban renewal and redevelopment) as they affect the identity of a place and the local value it has for residents. This intellectual concern is particularly relevant in a context of urban globalization, competition, integration, homogenization, and architecture’s obsession with modernism, together with demands for urban design originality and differentiation.

A few chapters (13,14) analyze those tensions very nicely as they uncover the multiple ways in which architects reshape cities and neighborhoods, and how many new projects and buildings create anonymity, vacuum, and disconnection for traditional residents. As place identity becomes reshaped, the built environment is at risk of losing its vitality and livability. Most of the authors also propose concrete recommendations for creating more holistic and deeper approaches to urban design through a variety of nicely documented cases studies – from the design of welcoming and useful spaces for elderly residents in Israel (Chapter 8) to the protection and enhancement of public spaces in informal settlements in Colombia (Chapter 7).

Despite these compelling insights, the volume is bit repetitive in regards to the theoretical frameworks or definitions offered in each chapter. It would also gain from an Introduction and Conclusion bringing all the chapters together and providing greater cohesion to the volume. It reads more like a – rich and detailed – collection of essays than a true edited volume with an original argument. The argument is not new that urban designers must understand people’s experiences of and expectations from places when they develop, (re)develop, or rebuild them. The book only alludes to the numerous conflicts and forms of contestation that arise over place transformation and place identity disruption, and how urban planners, designers, and architects confront these movements and conflicts. How does place identity in the built environment becomes reshaped and reasserted in light of resistance?

Sep 27 2013


Reviewed by Lawrence Susskind, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Dr Brian Stone, Jr. provides new information about the disastrous heat island effects created by urban centers and prescribes various policy frameworks to help correct this increasingly urgent situation.

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The City and the Coming Climate: Climate Change in the Places We Live, by Brian Stone, Jr., Cambridge University Press, 2012, 187 pp.

In his incredibly important book, Professor Brian Stone and his team at Georgia Institute of Technology show in no uncertain terms that CO2 emissions are not the only cause of climate change. Thus, reducing CO2 emissions won’t address the heat waves and frightening heat island threats that kill more people than any other climate-related risk each year. The “loss of trees and other vegetative cover combined with the emission of waste heat from industries, vehicles and buildings” is causing dangerous heat island effects in cities all over the world. Climate science has tended to ignore the fact that cities are getting hotter than the countryside that surrounds them. And adaptation strategies that don’t reduce the causes of urban heat islands are beside the point.

In an easily accessible but scientifically scrupulous way, Stone explains why climate skeptics no longer have any basis for doubting that human actions are the cause of current worldwide temperatures increases. And, he provides persuasive modeling evidence to show that temperature increases in cities represent a serious health hazard.

Stone argues for (1) broadening the definition of climate change to encompass land-surface drivers; (2) a regional scale approach to monitoring and explaining temperature changes; (3) a commitment to forest protection and reforestation, particularly in developing countries like Brazil and Indonesia; and (4) adaptive mitigation (e.g. ways of reducing climate change impacts that help cities achieve other objectives at the same time).

In my view, Stone doesn’t get the international relations behind climate change treaty-making right; and, because he doesn’t put climate change treaty-making in the broader context of other global negotiations (e.g. perpetual North-South disagreements, the difficulties of getting any country to relinquish any of it sovereignty, enforcement problems with all international law, the principle of differentiated responsibility that was the key to getting developing countries to sign the original 1992 Framework Convention, etc.), his proposed reforms are less than compelling. Nevertheless, after reading this book it is impossible to think about climate change as a problem we can pass on to future generations. Cities need to do something now. Moreover, we don’t need international mandates to force us to implement land-based mitigation. The health and welfare of current residents depends on cities restoring vegetation and reducing (and capturing) the thermal radiation created by urban development.

Sep 27 2013


Reviewed by Kathleen Araújo, Harvard University

In this book, Joanna Lewis, provides a detailed account of China’s role in the global climate change situation and the innovative measures they are taking towards a greener future.

Green Innovation in China: China’s Wind Power Industry and the Global Transition to a Low Carbon Economy, by Joanna I. Lewis, Columbia University Press, 2013, 304 pp.

Recent international challenges, like the global recession and sovereign debt crises, may have caused some people to miss a subtle, but important development – China has become a leader in “newer” forms of renewable energy. The Asian energy technology latecomer (widely known for installing one coal-fired power plant a week) has created top-ranked wind and solar energy industries in recent years, leading some national policy-makers from other countries to ask how their own domestic efforts to do the same could be so quickly outpaced. In her book, Green Innovation in China, Georgetown University Professor of Science, Technology and International Affairs Joanna Lewis begins to answer this question by examining the rise of the Chinese wind industry.

In a well-researched argument, Lewis makes the case that China is becoming a hub for global innovation with domestic and foreign wind technology firms. Drawing upon interviews, policy documents, and energy data, she details the way in which China transformed itself from a country with no real experience in wind turbine manufacturing to one which can produce state-of-the-art wind technology systems and now leads in cumulative installed wind capacity. Acknowledging that conventional indicators, like R&D spending or patents, can be insufficient to capture the science and technology learning dynamics in play, she argues that licensing and government policy support were critical. She also includes discussion of issues like trade secrets, quality control, and slow grid connection, then speculates that intellectual property rights will probably become more important to Chinese companies as they becomes increasingly vested in wind technology exports. As a China policy consultant and scholar, Lewis brings an unusual, embedded perspective to her closing evaluation of competition and cooperation between the United States and China – the world’s largest energy consumers, greenhouse gas emitters, and economies.

While this book is accessible to a broad audience, it will be particularly valuable for policymakers and industry decision-makers interested in emergent technology markets. Broader questions about the efficacy of the World Trade Organization or debates about China’s role in global technology transfer leave ample room for a sequel. For now, though, those wanting to deepen their understanding of green jobs measures, intellectual property issues in emergent technology markets, or strategic partnering with China will not want to miss what Lewis has to say.

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