Research Handbook on Climate Change Adaptation Law

Research Handbook on Climate Change Adaptation Law

Research Handbooks in Environmental Law series

Edited by Jonathan Verschuuren

This timely Research Handbook discusses the challenges brought about by the need to adapt to a changing climate. It considers how adaptation is necessary to address impacts resulting from the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere which is already unavoidable due to past emissions.

Chapter 12: Climate change adaptation and land use planning law

Keith H Hirokawa and Jonathan Rosenbloom

Subjects: environment, climate change, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law


Governance of local and regional communities has always been an experiment in adaptation. New and shifting social, economic, and environmental challenges have pushed communities to adapt to a wide variety of changes involving anything from technology to growing populations. For instance, automobile travel reduced the size of the world by increasing the distance one could travel; elevators opened thousands of feet of airspace to development and human occupancy; drive-through restaurants fundamentally altered the nature of the relationship between restaurants and their surrounding neighborhoods. In each of these examples, new land uses challenged the capacity of local communities to continue protecting present values and ways of life. In response, local communities employed and, in some cases, reconceptualized traditional land use tools – such as infrastructure planning, nuisance regulation, and zoning – to meet emerging challenges with familiar tools and in familiar ways. In large measure, these land use tools represent a sophisticated type of governance that is aimed at minimizing risks and maximizing the opportunities of economic, environmental, and social change. Further, the tools do so in a way that provides local communities with the flexibility to address changes as they arise, and help local communities adapt to projected climate change related conditions. While land use tools have previously been implemented to help local communities adapt to new challenges, climate change presents a distinct set of issues different from prior issues facing local communities. Traditionally, urban planning has drawn on lessons and observations of the past to direct present decision-making and address new challenges.

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