Date of Award

12-2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Geography

Major Professor

Micheline van Riemsdijk

Committee Members

Carol P. Harden, Liem Tran, David Ostermeier

Abstract

This thesis investigates the ways in which institutions and actors consider climate change, and how the inclusion of diverse perspectives and challenges in the planning process shapes climate change governance. In particular, I asked how the participants, place-specific contexts, and decision-making processes affect environmental decision-making in Alaska’s National Parks. I discuss the literature on geographical perspectives on climate change, environmental and climate change governance, how uncertainty and risk affect decision-making in the context of climate change, and the history of land use management in the United States. This project incorporates qualitative methods to research the Climate Change Scenario Planning project for the Alaska Region of the National Park Service. I participated in two Climate Change Scenario Planning project workshops to examine how institutions and actors prepare for climate change. I show that the participatory learning process is vital to climate change planning, particularly when a diverse group of institutions and actors are involved. I also use the Climate Change Scenario Planning workshops to understand the challenges to climate change response in Alaska’s National Parks. The common challenges in the climate change decision-making process can be grouped into three categories: (1) a lack of comfort and certainty in planning for the future and discussing climate change; (2) climate change takes place in a larger environmental, social, and political context; (3) and a lack of guidance and leadership in climate change governance. Finally, I summarize the ways in which my thesis contributes to the literature of human-environment interactions and environmental governance studies. The findings provide insights into the inclusion of institutions and actors in climate change governance and how climate change planning operates.

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