Studying local climate adaptation: A heuristic research framework for comparative policy analysis

Brenan Vogel, Daniel Henstra


Climate change poses a significant risk for communities, and local governments around the world have begun responding by developing climate adaptation policies. Scholarship on local adaptation policy has proliferated in recent years, but insufficient attention has been paid to operationalization of the unit of analysis, and methods employed are typically inadequate to draw inferences about variation across cases. This article seeks to contribute to the conceptual and methodological foundations of a research agenda for comparative analysis of local adaptation policies and policy-making. Synthesizing insights from policy studies literature and existing adaptation research, the article identifies and operationalizes two aspects of public policy—policy content and policy process—which are salient objects of comparative analysis that typically vary from one community to another. The article also addresses research design, outlining a comparative case study methodology that incorporates various qualitative analytical techniques as the vehicle to examine these policy elements in empirical settings.

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