University of British Columbia Papers

Summary of papers from Institute of Environment, Resources and Sustainability University of British Columbia

Experiences with integrated assessment development applied to the Georgia Basin, western Canada

A Participatory Integrated Assessment Approach to Local Climate Change Responses: Linking Sustainable Development with Climate Change Adaptation & Mitigation
Livia Bizikova, Sarah Burch, Stewart Cohen and John Robinson
In: O’Brien K. and A. L. Claire (Eds.), 2009. Clair Shifting the Discourse: Climate Change as an Issue of Human Security. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, New York.
Recent advances in the study of climate change impacts and responses have indicated the great value of integrated assessment methods. Traditional integrated assessment, however, is plagued by the lack of thorough integration of social and institutional domains, which must occur if integrated assessment is to serve its purpose of facilitating decision-making under conditions of uncertainty. These domains are especially relevant to an exploration of the linkages between Sustainable development and climate change responses (Adaptation and Mitigation) and related policies. We suggest that a participatory integrated assessment (PIA) framework can be used as a platform for organizing SAM studies, providing an ongoing learning opportunity for both researchers and practitioner/stakeholder partners. Within the PIA, scenario and backcasting tools could be used in conjunction with other case-specific methods (e.g. from forestry, water management and urban planning), as well as dialogue support methods such as visualization and decision-support models. We outline some key elements of a methodology which uses backcasting and scenario development to envision a locally sustainable future, explicitly considers tradeoffs and synergies between adaptation and mitigation, links climate change and sustainable development, and generates an integrated ‘SAM’ scenario.
Explicit incorporation of capacity in the PIA process reveals a set of indicators that must be included so that climate change can be placed in the context of broader development priorities and responsible policy decisions can be made. Examining capacity in this context reveals the resources with which any response to climate change can be built and it draws our attention to the underlying development path which simultaneously begets both capacity and barriers to action. The ultimate result is the generation of locally-significant climate change response strategies constructed upon a foundation of multi-stakeholder dialogue and scientifically robust scenario development.
Climate Visioning: A New Process for Community Planning and Outreach Using Visualization Tools
Stephen RJ Sheppard
In: Plan Canada Spring2008 Vol. 48, No.1 Published by the Canadian Institute of Planners pp36-40.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia have been working with climate scientists, planners and stakeholders in the Metro Vancouver area to develop a new process for outreach and planning that bridges the gap between global climate science and local action. The Local Climate Change Visioning process uses realistic 3D imagery and spatial modelling of alternative climate futures at the neighbourhood scale to address climate change causes, projected impacts, and possible adaptation/mitigation choices holistically. This article describes the visioning process and ongoing research to evaluate its effectiveness in building capacity and decision-support.
Participatory decision support for sustainable forest management: a framework for planning with local communities at the landscape level in Canada
Stephen R.J. Sheppard
In: Can. J. For. Res. 35: 1515–1526 (2005)
There is an increasing demand for active public involvement in forestry decision making, but there are as yet few established models for achieving this in the new sustainable forest management (SFM) context. At the level of the working forest, the fields of forest sustainability assessment, public participation, decision support, and computer technology in spatial modelling and visualization need to be integrated. This paper presents the results of a literature review of public participation and decision-support methods, with emphasis on case study examples in participatory decision support. These suggest that emerging methods, such as public multicriteria analysis of alternative forest management scenarios and allied tools, may lend themselves to public processes addressing sustainability criteria and indicators. The paper develops a conceptual framework for participatory decision support to address the special needs of SFM in tactical planning at the landscape level. This framework consists of principles, process criteria, and preliminary guidelines for designing and evaluating SFM planning processes with community input. More well-documented studies are needed to develop comprehensive, engaging, open, and accountable processes that support informed decision making in forest management, and to strengthen guidance for managers.
Hot in my backyard: climate change comes home to roost.
David Flanders, Stephen Sheppard, Sarah Burch, Alison Shaw
In: Landscape Architecture in Canada Winter 2009 vol 11_ no.1 pp 10-13.
Most of the past decade has been given over to building awareness of climate change, but it is high time we moved beyond that towards community engagement and policy responses. The University of British Columbia’s Local Climate Change Visioning Project wants to bring the issue home, placing our focus where it is the most meaningful: in our own backyards. The project creates vivid 3D visualizations of our future communities with climate change.
Future visioning of local climate change: a framework for community engagement and planning with scenarios and visualisation
Stephen R.J. Sheppard, Alison Shaw, David Flanders, Sarah Burch, Arnim Wiek, Jeff Carmichael, John Robinson, Stewart Cohen,
In: Futures, Special Issue, Manuscript p19
There is an urgent need for meaningful information and effective public processes at the local level to build awareness, capacity, and agency on climate change, and support planning and decision-making. This paper describes a conceptual framework to meet these requirements by generating alternative, coherent, holistic climate change scenarios and visualizations at the local scale, in collaboration with local stakeholders and scientists. The framework provides a template for a process to integrate emission scenarios with both mitigation and adaptation strategies, and to link local manifestations of impacts and responses with global climate change scenarios. The article outlines the empirical application of this framework in the Local Climate Change Visioning Project in British Columbia, Canada The project collaboratively localized, spatialized, and visualized possible climate change effects and community responses in the community’s ‘backyards’. The article concludes with lessons learned and suggested principles for future visioning efforts to engage communities in possible policy and behavioural choices.
Co-production, emergent properties and strong interactive social research: the Georgia Basin Futures Project.
John Robinson and James Tansey
In: Science and Public Policy, volume 33, number 2, March 2006, pages 151–160
A strong programme in interactive social research can be distinguished by the relationships it seeks to establish among four key parties in the research process – the sponsors of research, the research team, independent organisations (from the governmental, non-governmental and commercial sectors) and the interested public. The knowledge that is the result of a research project is a co-production of researchers, players and partners, and is therefore an emergent property of their interaction. The Georgia Basin Futures Project is one attempt to operationalise a form of strong interactive social research.
Making local futures tangible—Synthesizing, downscaling, and visualizing climate change scenarios for participatory capacity building
Alison Shaw, Stephen Sheppard, Sarah Burch, David Flanders, Arnim Wiek, Jeff Carmichael, John Robinson, Stewart Cohen
In: Global Environmental Change 19 (2009) 447–463
Local in its causes and global in its impacts, climate change still poses an unresolved challenge for scientists, politicians, entrepreneurs, and citizens. Climate change research is largely global in focus, aims at enhanced understanding, and is driven by experts, all of which seem to be insufficient to anchor climate change action in regional and local contexts. We present results from a participatory scenario study conducted in collaboration with the municipality of Delta in SW British Columbia, Canada. This study applies a participatory capacity building approach for climate change action at the local level where the sources of emissions and the mechanisms of adaptation reside and where climate change is meaningful to decision-makers and stakeholders alike. The multi-scale scenario approach consists of synthesizing global climate change scenarios, downscaling them to the regional and local level, and finally visualizing alternative climate scenarios out to 2100 in 3D views of familiar, local places. We critically discuss the scenarios produced and the strengths and weaknesses of the approach applied.
Sustainability as a Problem of Design: Interactive Science in the Georgia Basin
John Robinson, Jeff Carmichael, Rob Van Wynsberghe, James Tansey, Murray Journeay, Larson Rogers
In: The Integrated Assessment Journal Vol. 6, Iss. 4 (2006), pp. 165–192
This paper reports on the general findings of the Georgia Basin Futures Project, a five year collaborative interdisciplinary participatory integrated assessment project undertaken in the Georgia Basin of Canada from 1999–2004. Key outcomes are discussed with regard to the development and use of participatory scenario-generation models and processes, the involvement of stakeholders and partners in such processes, the development of three urban-scale case studies, the use of such tools and processes in the classroom, the cognitive and behavioural effects of such activities, and the value of such processes for policy analysis. Some comments on the implications of this type of project for interdisciplinary research and project management are also included.
An integrated assessment modeling tool
Jeff Carmichael, James Tansey, John Robinson
In: Global Environmental Change 14 (2004) 171–183
The Georgia Basin Futures Project is an innovative regional scale integrated assessment (IA) exercise, which is being undertaken for the purpose of identifying futures that are desirable to the general public in a region, and for the assessment of appropriate policy approaches to realizing these desired futures. Georgia Basin (GB)-QUEST is an interdisciplinary computer-modelling tool which was developed, based on an earlier prototype, as a central part of this project. This paper describes how GB-QUEST is organized, which IA principles are central to its design, the modelling techniques being employed and the experience of users of the model. The paper suggests that the particular modelling methods used, in combination with the innovative design approach, represents a viable template for future regional IAs.
Envisioning sustainability pathways: Recent progress in the use of participatory backcasting approaches for sustainability research
John Robinson; Sarah Burch; Sonia Talwar; Meg O'Shea; Mike Walsh
In: Technological Forecasting & Social Change - Manuscript
This paper describes recent progress in the utilization of participatory scenario-based backcasting approaches to sustainability research that blend quantitative and qualitative analysis in order to explore alternative climate change futures, as undertaken in a range of academic, government, and private sector projects in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada. Together, these projects demonstrate both the value and challenges associated with second generation backcasting techniques, 3D visualization tools, and multi-stakeholder participation. We explore whether such techniques can help to articulate and explore different futures, and enhance collaboration among various departments, disciplines, and stakeholders.
Utilizing participatory scenario-based approaches to design proactive responses to climate change in the face of uncertainties
Livia Bizikova, Sarah Burch, John Robinson, Alison Shaw and Stephen Sheppard
In: Gramelsberger, G. and J. Feichter (2009, in press): Climate change and policy: the calculability of climate change and the challenge of uncertainty, Springer: Heidelberg, Berlin, New York, Tokyo, pp. 400.
Uncertainty is a vital part of scientific understanding of processes driving climate change. As we move closer to questions of policy and behavioural responses, however, the nature of uncertainty changes, reflecting the increasing salience of conscious awareness and choice regarding consequences and outcomes. The goal is not simply to characterize uncertainty but also to express the degree of choice and constraint that exists with respect to policy options. In particular, the analysis of adaptation and mitigation options requires explicit consideration of uncertainty, constraints and choices. For example, the IPCC SRES scenarios and storylines have shown that decisions shaping actual development pathways could considerably alter the level of future emissions and climate change impacts.
This broader approach to uncertainty suggests the desirability of addressing climate change adaptation, mitigation and societal development in a more integrated and participatory manner in order to identify the choices and trade-offs associated with the balance between mitigation and adaptation actions while shaping local, regional and global development. Linkages need to be made between the socioeconomic dimensions of development paths, climate change impacts and responses, which would subsequently challenge institutional settings and potentially broaden policy-makers’ dialogue. We argue that a participatory scenario-based approach, which involves identifying alternative development pathways at a local or regional scale, is a useful way to approach these goals.
In this paper, we address the key challenges of decision-making under uncertainty with respect to climate change and development. We introduce a novel framework linking climate change adaptation and mitigation with sustainability as a useful way to guide development priorities closely tied to the local situation while explicitly accounting for adaptation and mitigation needs. Finally, we discuss lessons learned from two British Columbia case studies developed through participatory scenario-building processes to demonstrate ways of considering uncertainty in the design of locally- relevant mitigation and adaptation responses in the context of sustainability.


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