Climate Change Adaptation in Great Lakes Cities

Client Organization: 
U-M Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute, Great Lakes Climate Change Cities Assessment- GLACC-C Project
Project Location : 
Great Lakes region
Summary of Project Idea: 

Can the cities and people of the Great Lakes region adapt to climate change while remaining or becoming more economically, socially, or ecologically resilient?  Answering this question requires understanding how social, economic, political and ecological processes interact over various spatial and temporal scales to shape climate adaptation.  The most accurate climate models project even warmer temperatures and shifting precipitation patterns with an increased likelihood of extreme events by the end of the 21st century.  To further understand how the Great Lakes region can adapt to the projected climate impacts, we conducted an Integrated Assessment of four Ohio cities (Avon Lake, Dayton, Elyria and Toledo) to measure their adaptive capacity.  To measure this, we describe various capitals and capacities found to increase a system's ability to respond favorably to climate impacts.  Further, using the Institutional Analysis and Development Framework, we investigate how each government manages that adaptive capacity to achieve positive adaptive outcomes.

Between the four cities, sixty interviews with policy-makers and stakeholders were conducted.  Using the qualitative coding software NVivio, this data was analyzed with the purpose of identifying leverage points, synergistic projects and collaborations.  A key finding is that each city is experiencing significant sotrm water impacts, such as erosion, combined-sewage overflows, and flooding.  We found responses to these challenges vary from city-to-city, though stakeholders in each city are taking innovative approaches to better manage storm water.  These approaches include broad stakeholder engagement, private-public partnerships, and forming regional networks.  However, scarce resources, incomplete knowledge, and unclear vision constrain the potential of these innovative initiatives to fully deal with projected impacts.  Therefore, we suggest strategies for improving stakeholder engagement to better facilitate the emergence of adaptive outcomes.  We hope that this study will help establish a network within the cities comprised of committed individuals at all institutional levels willing to address the threat of climate change.

SEAS Program Areas: 
Conservation Ecology (Aquatic Sciences, Terrestrial Ecosystems, and Conservation Biology)
Environmental Policy and Planning
Behavior, Education, and Communication
Environmental Justice
Sustainable Systems
SEAS Faculty Advisor: 
Maria Carmen Lemos
Master Students Involved in Project: 
  • Pamela Barclay, MS/MPH Behavior, Education and Communication
  • Cara Bastoni, MS Sustainable Systems
  • David Eisenhauer, MS Environmental Policy and Planning
  • Masooma Hassan, MS Environmental Policy and Planning
  • Melody Lopez, MS Conservation Ecology
  • Leila Mekias, MS Environmental Justice
  • Sundeep Ramachandran, MS Sustainable Systems
  • Ryan Stock, MS Environmental Policy and Planning/Environmental Justice
Project Status: 
Past Project