Overall Goal

The aim of this Thematic Network is to explore how communities confront climate change, including assessment of governance structures around climate adaptation or processes dealing with it, and how they seek to adapt to emerging challenges arising from increases in temperature and more extreme weather events. Research will facilitate a better understanding of local expertise and highlight, in particular, the value a community planning perspective brings to discourse on climate resilience. It will shed light on local government decision dynamics around motivational factors and extent of planning for climate resilience.

The TN aims to work collaboratively with local actors and key stakeholders to identify current and future environmental challenges, and to scope how research through the TN can assist communities increase their resilience to the impacts of climate variability, be it through the co-development of policy approaches, on-the-ground action implementation, research capacity and/ or knowledge mobilization, for example. One of the distinctive aspects of this TN is that it will work within and across scales from larger urban centres to small communities, including attention to Indigenous forms of community planning for climate resilience.

Recent Activities

  • Workshop - The importance of being flexible: Research doesn’t always go the way you expect! The case of Dawson City, Yukon. Quick Response Research Workshop. Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction and the Natural Hazards Center (September, 2020). Delivered virtually by Jeff Birchall (University of Alberta, Canada).
  • (virtual) Seminar - Local-scale Climate Resilience. University of Alberta (Edmonton, Canada, March, 2020).
  • Videoconference - Inaugural Partners Meeting (November, 2019).
  • Seminar - Integrating climate change into urban planning education and practice. UN Habitat - Planners for Climate Action Academic Seminar (Nairobi, Kenya, November, 2019). Delivered virtually by Birchall (University of Alberta, Canada).
  • Conference - Environmental extremes and the role of decision-makers in facilitating community resilience. Emergency Management Stakeholder Summit (Edmonton, Canada, February, 2020). Keynote Address by Birchall (University of Alberta, Canada).

Planned Activities

  • Videoconference - Thematic Network Partners Meeting (TBD for Oct 2020)
  • Graduate Seminar on climate change impacts and responses in the Arctic (virtual, December 2020): 
    • co-hosted/ organized by University of Alberta; in discussion with others to co-host.
  • Workshop - Planning and Resilience: Local impacts and local solutions (virtual, March, 2021):
    • Chair/ Organizer - University of Alberta, Canada; in discussion with Yukon University to Co-Chair.
  • UArctic Congress - Seminar/ Panel (May 2021) - postponed from Oct 2020: Local environmental change and planning for resilience across the Arctic
    Co-Chairs/ Co-Conveners:
    • Dr. S. Jeff Birchall, University of Alberta, Canada
    • Dr. Sigridur Kristjansdottir, Agricultural University of Iceland, Iceland

This session aims to contribute to the priority theme People and Communities in the Arctic (resilient communities). In particular, this session will explore local climate stressors (impacts) from across the Arctic, and discuss the decision-dynamics around why and how communities incorporate (or fail to incorporate) planning for adaptation into strategic policy and practice. This lens will help unpack the role of decision-makers and institutions in facilitating an adaptation agenda, the influence of leadership and knowledge, and how historical policy decisions have contributed to the current state of climate action, and what this may mean moving forward. Further, this session will highlight the importance of meaningful engagement of local communities and key stakeholders throughout the policy and planning process.

Panelists/ Presenters:

    • Jeff Birchall, University of Alberta, Canada
    • Karin Buhmann, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
    • Tristan Pearce, University of Northern British Columbia, Canada
    • Svetlana Kuznetsova, Northern (Arctic) Federal University, Russia
    • Soffía Björk Guðmundsdóttir (Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment Working Group of the Arctic Council, Iceland)
    • Sigridur Kristjansdottir, Agricultural University of Iceland, Iceland 
  • Thematic Network Partners Meeting at UArctic Congress (TBD for May 2021) 

Thematic Network Cross-links

Recent relevant publications by Partners

  • Bonnett, N., Birchall, SJ. (2020). Coastal communities in the Circumpolar North and the need for sustainable climate adaptation approaches. Marine Policy. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2020.104175
  • Timothy Heleniak (Nordregio) - Polar Peoples in the Future: Projections of the Arctic Populations. Working PaperExecutive Summary

  • Special Section on Land-sea interactions and coastal development, in Marine Policy. See the volume here. Thematic Network member contributions include: 1. Schluter et al.: Land-sea interactions and coastal development: An evolutionary governance perspective: 2. van Assche et al.: Governance and the coastal condition: Towards new modes of observation, adaptation and integration, 3. Birchall: Coastal climate adaptation planning and evolutionary governance: Insights from Homer, Alaska
  • Birchall, SJ. (2019). Coastal climate adaptation planning and evolutionary governance: Insights from Alaska. Marine Policy, Land and Sea Interaction Special Issue. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2018.12.029.
  • Birchall, SJ, Bonnett, N. (2019). Local-scale climate change stressors and policy response: The case of Homer, Alaska. Environmental Planning and Management. https://doi.org/10.1080/09640568.2018.1537975.
  • Birchall, SJ., Bonnett, N. (2019). Thinning sea ice and thawing permafrost: Climate change adaptation planning in Nome, Alaska. Environmental Hazards. https://doi.org/10.1080/17477891.2019.1637331.


University of Alberta, Faculty of Science media release: New international network on climate change led by UAlberta scientist