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Campus Access

Document Type


Degree Program

Regional Planning

Degree Type

Master of Regional Planning (M.R.P.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



climate change, adaptation, planning, narrative, hope, despair


Many states and municipalities are using climate forecasts and vulnerability analyses to prepare comprehensive frameworks designed to guide adaptation actions (Hamin, 2012). The responsibility for facilitating the development and adoption of these frameworks, also known as climate adaptation plans, often lies with planning practitioners. However, if planning is understood to be the organization of hope and its language that of the future (Baum, 1997), planning practitioners must consider how to effectively uphold these disciplinary concepts when addressing climate change—an issue with the propensity to stimulate fear and despair for a future marked by uncertainty. Developing and implementing adaptation policies and practices designed to increase community resilience in the face of a changing climate require negotiating a balance between pessimistic feelings that climate change is already underway and won’t be stopped and optimistic feelings that actions taken now will matter.

Employing qualitative research methods informed by grounded theory, this research examines a set of state-level climate change adaptation plans to identify the key elements within and their implications for negotiating the despair and hope associated with climate change. Research methods from the field of narratology provide a basis for understanding these elements as components of a narrative. Findings suggest that state-level adaptation plans, understood as narratives, are comprised of elements that can be employed to balance the despair and hope associated with climate change. These findings support research emerging from the field of planning theory, which suggests that persuasive narratives may have relevance in mobilizing action on climate-related issues. Informed by research from diverse fields of inquiry, recommendations that guide the use of select elements in adaptation plans were developed to aid in overcoming the barriers that uncertainty, fear and despair play in limiting effective action on climate change.


First Advisor

Elisabeth M. Hamin