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The Cultural Context of Climate Change Adaptation

The Cultural Context of Climate Change Adaptation

Cases from the U.S. East Coast and the German Baltic Sea Coast
Calling up for transatlantic coastal collaboration

Coastal communities in the U.S. and in the EU are increasingly aware of the existing and possible impacts of climate change. Over 123 million Americans and nearly half of European citizens live on or near their respective coasts. Adapting to ongoing and future climate change in coastal communities is an area of common concern between the U.S. and the EU, and it is an area where the two can pursue common approaches that build on learning and best practices. Further, climate change adaptation for coastal communities must be considered in the context of already existing constraints and challenges to these communities. What coastal stakeholders in Europe and the U.S. learn from each other to safeguarding their shores has been explored in a publication by Dr. Grit Martinez from Ecologic Institute in collaboration with colleagues from Duke and Humboldt University.

In some places, often in the EU, national and regional governments drive coastal communities to increase their resilience and adapt to climate change, through the development of climate adaptation plans and the provision better estimations of projected risks in the short and longer term. In other areas, often in the US, coastal communities are actively aware of increasing risks and have begun to organize themselves to strengthen their resilience to potential and existing threats through e.g. improved information sharing and developing alternatives to cope with perceived and estimated risks. These communities, policymakers, and researchers have much to learn from each other.

In their study "The cultural context of climate change adaptation: Cases from the U.S. East Coast and the German Baltic Sea Coast" lead author Dr. Grit Martinez from Ecologic Institute jointly explores with colleagues from DUKE University (Prof. Mike Orbach, Alexandra Donargo, Kelsey Ducklow, Nathalie Morison) and Humboldt University (Fanny Frick) the role of socio-cultural and socio-economic development, as it is displayed in law and policy, in relation to perceptions, local knowledge and values concerning environmental changes and climate change in geo-morphological similar regions at coasts in the U.S. and Germany.

The authors found that history, values and experiences shape perceptions and actions of coastal communities. In different countries, the process of action-orientation has different time lapses, dynamics and results. To understand these differences and to learn from them it is important to analyze how historical and contemporary characteristics of coastal management regimes and perceptions and values of coastal stakeholders emerged and how and why they differ since these differences impact upon the current transition process to a global challenge.

The authors argue that important factors that explain differences in approaches to environmental challenges, including climate change, can be derived from theories and narratives about path-dependency developed in a historical and context. The article has been published in December 2014 in the volume "Social dimension of Climate Change Adaptation in Coastal Regions". The volume is available for 29,95 Euros at oekom.


Martinez, Grit; Orbach, Mike; Frick, Fanny; Donargo, Alexandra, Ducklow, Kelsey; Morison, Nathalie  2014: "The cultural context of climate change adaptation: Cases from the U.S. East Coast and the German Baltic Sea Coast", in: Grit Martinez; Hans-Joachim Meier and Peter Fröhle (eds.): Social Dimensions of Climate Change Adaptation in Coastal Regions - Findings from Transdisciplinary Research. Munich: oekom verlag, 85-103.

Mike Orbach
Fanny Frick
Alexandra Donargo
Kelsey Ducklow
Nathlie Morison
18 pp.
Project ID
Table of Contents

Grit Martinez, Peter Fröhle, Hans-Joachim Meier
The sociocultural dimension: Why does it matter?
Editors’ Foreword


Current challenges in coastal adaptation at regional and local levels:
Perspectives from multiple scientific disciplines
Marcus Reckermann, Anders Omstedt, Janet F. Pawlak, Hans von Storch
Climate change in the Baltic Sea region
What do we know?

Hans-Joachim Meier
Public environmental administration and local integration
Tasks and perspectives

Doris Knoblauch, Nico Stelljes
Regional perspectives concerning climate change and coastal adaptation
A comparison between Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Schleswig-Holstein

Jana Herrmann, Kristin Stechemesser, Edeltraud Guenther
Barriers to organizational adaptation processes

Grit Martinez, Mike Orbach, Fanny Frick, Alexandra Donargo, Kelsey Ducklow, Nathalie Morison
The cultural context of climate change adaptation
Cases from the U.S. East Coast and the German Baltic Sea coast
Regional and local response strategies

Sandra Enderwitz, Inga Haller, Horst Sterr
Regional networking towards an unknown future – the example of the Kiel Bay Climate Alliance
Adaptation to climate change in coastal tourism

Heide Stephani-Pessel, Anna Bugey, Uta Steinhardt
Tapping the full scope of action
Experiences from a case study on stormwater management

Rieke Müncheberg, Fritz Gosselck, Timothy Coppack, Alexander Weidauer
Climate change adaptation in the Baltic region
Solving conflicts between nature conversation and coastal protection strategies

Success factors for coastal adaptation to climate change at regional and local levels
Nana Karlstetter, Hedda Schattke, Karsten Hurrelmann
Methods and success factors in organisational adaptation to climate change
Toward a resilient food system in northwestern Germany

Thomas Zimmermann, Christian Albert, Jörg Knieling, Christina von Haaren
Social learning in climate change adaptation
Evaluating participatory planning

Uta von Winterfeld
Participation is not sufficient
Climate change and a democratic culture

Jana Koerth, Jochen Hinkel, Alexander Bisaro, Athanasios T. Vafeidis, Horst Sterr
Taking on the challenge of household-level adaptation
A question of reliance on institutional capacity?

Grit Martinez, Fanny Frick, Kira Gee
Socioeconomic and cultural issues in the planning, implementation and transfer of adaptation measures to climate change
The example of two communities on the German Baltic Sea coast

Philipp P. Thapa, Rafael Ziegler
Social dynamics of climate change adaptation in the KLIMZUG projects
Summary and outlook from the perspective of environmental philosophers

Contributing authors

The KLIMZUG associations

coastal history, path dependencies, socio-cultural, policy, climate change impacts, adaption, regional, local, , Baltic Sea, East Coast U.S.