Adaptive Governance: Proposals for Climate Change Science, Policy and Decision Making


Adaptive governance is a pattern that began to emerge from conflicts over natural resources in the American West a few decades ago, as a pragmatic response to the manifest failures of scientific management. Around the turn of the twentieth century, “Scientific management aspired to rise above politics, relying on science as the foundation for efficient policies made through a single central authority – a bureaucratic structure with the appropriate mandate, jurisdiction, and expert personnel” (Brunner et al. 2005, p. 2).1 But during the last century it became increasingly clear that effective control was dispersed among multiple authorities and interest groups, that efficiency was only one of the many goals to be reconciled in policy decision processes, and that science itself was politically contested. Scientific management typically leads to gridlock in these circumstances. Adaptive governance addresses these twenty-first century realities by proceeding principally but not exclusively from the bottom up rather than the top down. Each local community can integrate scientific and local knowledge into policies to advance its common interest, recognizing that politics are unavoidable. Many communities working in parallel can harvest their collective experience, to make successful innovations anywhere in the network available for voluntary adaptation elsewhere, and to clarify their common needs for higher-level authorities. The emerging pattern of adaptive governance is not limited to natural resource problems.2


Storm Surge Army Corps Coastal Erosion Climate Change Research Networking Strategy 
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Copyright information

© Springer 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Public Policy ResearchUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  2. 2.School of Geography and Environmental ScienceMonash UniversityAustralia

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