Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Climate change adaptation and policy in Pacific small island states: Safe havens or adrift at sea?
by Schwebel, Michael Bryan, Ph.D., Temple University, 2015, 235; 3703089
Abstract (Summary)

Pacific Small Island States (PSIS) are in the precarious position as some of the first jurisdictions to grapple with the current and forecasted effects of climate change, such as forced migrations and loss of culture. Yet, islanders' viewpoints are neither often fully understood nor heeded by those at the international decision making levels. Therefore, how and to what extent are PSIS successfully preparing for climate change?

This completed study used a mixed methods approach that examines nissology — how islanders view and understand themselves — and its relationship with successful (discussed and defined within the study) adaptation planning. The study also used a mixed methods approach to juxtapose the findings of the nissological and success analyses with a second research question: an in-depth study and analysis of regional and global policymaking entities, and the degrees to which they may influence islanders' preparation for climate change.

The study examined 18 PSIS and their Climate Change Adaptation Plans (CCAPs) and then interviewed PSIS' representatives at their respective Missions to the United Nations in New York City to evaluate how PSIS view and foresee current and future policies regarding climate change at the global, regional, and local levels. Then, fieldwork was performed within the United States Territories in the Pacific: American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands to obtain on-the-ground information regarding implementation of plans, policies, and projects.

The study attempted to address two specific gaps in the literature via the triangulation of methods and data: the relationship between an island-centric viewpoint of CCAPs and successful climate change as well as how policymaking in the Pacific at the local, regional, and global levels either assisted or hindered successful climate change adaptation policy.

The results suggested answers to these two key questions as well as several unexpected or emergent findings. Regarding the two principal research questions, PSIS that crafted their CCAPs in a more nissological or island-centric manner were indicative of states that were foreseen to be more successful in adapting to current and future climate change effects. Next, PSIS that were part of AOSIS, the various regional associations, and those PSIS that had complete sovereignty (independent) were indicative of those PSIS expressing greater overall success at preparing for climate change than those PSIS not meeting these criteria. However, not all PSIS had the opportunity to become members of AOSIS or certain regional organizations for various reasons.

Finally, a policy document was created at the end of the study to illustrate some of the best practices based upon this study's findings. Immediately preceding the policy document are other emergent findings indicative of future areas of research and exploration within the realms of nissology, regional associations and partnerships, and successful climate change adaptation.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Mason, Robert J.
Commitee: Andersson, Lynne, Pearsall, Hamil, Rosan, Tina
School: Temple University
Department: Geography
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-B 76/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Geography, Climate Change, Pacific Rim Studies, Sustainability
Keywords: Adaptation, Climate change, Islands, Nissology, Policy, Success
Publication Number: 3703089
ISBN: 978-1-321-74721-8
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