Decentralized decision-making structures allow a large, complex problem like global climate change to be factored into many smaller problems, each more tractable for policy and scientific purposes. Many smaller problems can be addressed separately and concurrently by smaller communities. Procedurally rational policy in each community is an adaptation to profound uncertainties, inherent in complex systems and cognitive constraints, that limit predictability. Each step in such trial-and-error processes depends on politics to balance, if not integrate, the interests of multiple participants to advance their common interest—the point of governance in a free society.
Intensive science recognizes that each community is unique because the interests, interactions, and environmental responses of its participants are multiple and coevolve. Hence, inquiry focuses on case studies of particular contexts considered comprehensively and in some detail. Varieties of adaptive governance emerged in response to the limitations of scientific management, the dominant pattern of governance in the 20th century. In scientific management, central authorities sought technically rational policies supported by predictive science to rise above politics and thereby realize policy goals more efficiently from the top down.
The parties negotiated the Kyoto Protocol that attempted to prescribe legally binding targets and timetables for national reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Adaptive governance is a promising but underutilized approach to advancing common interests in response to climate impacts.
PDF Adaptive Governance: Integrating Science, Policy, and Decision Making
The interests affected by climate, and their relative priorities, differ from one community to the next, but typically they include protecting life and limb, property and prosperity, other human artifacts, and ecosystem services, while minimizing costs. Adaptive governance is promising because some communities have made significant progress in reducing their losses and vulnerability to climate impacts in the course of advancing their common interests.
In doing so, they provide field-tested models for similar communities to consider. Policies that have worked anywhere in a network tend to be diffused for possible adaptation elsewhere in that network. Policies that have worked consistently intensify and justify collective action from the bottom up to reallocate supporting resources from the top down. Researchers can help realize the potential of adaptive governance on larger scales by recognizing it as a complementary approach in climate policy—not a substitute for scientific management, the historical baseline. Keywords: scientific management , adaptive management , collective action , urban sustainability , decentralized decision-making , procedural rationality , case studies , resilience , common interests , historical sciences.
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For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us. All Rights Reserved. We consider this typology, while useful, risks obscuring two important things. First, these management approaches are characterised by differences across a range of attitudes and assumptions, as summarised in Table 1. This suggests a spectrum characterised by clusters of issues rather than a simple of continuum delineated by a single variable. Second, and more important, adaptive governance affirms the messy middle ground, rather than advocating some utopian ideal.
The literature has developed through careful empirical observation and reflection on the realities of muddling through. The adaptive governance critique of centralised expert management does not imply that resource management should be entirely decentralised and entrusted to non-experts. Rather, it argues that management practice has overshot, moving from one extreme to another. We thus think it is more useful to think of adaptive governance as sitting between two polar alternatives: centralised expert management and the romantic view that pre-industrial societies naturally lived in balance with nature.
For examples of these romantic views see Ruskin for a portrait of the noble agricultural village, and Rappaport for a spiritually attuned noble savage. While these polar alternatives are flawed in different ways, they are united by their neglect of the nuance and complexity of human motivation and institutions, and the failure to recognise that all behaviour is influenced by implicit or explicit incentive effects.
Ultimately, the task is to employ an analytical framework that matches the most important characteristics of the issue being addressed. Centralized expert management is likely to work well for engineering problems and tightly controlled systems such as the factory productions lines this approach was originally developed for , while romantic agrarianism may well be useful for resource management regimes with very high local social or ecological diversity and considerable resilience in relation to the dominant stresses.
Adaptive governance has vital contributions in understanding complex and diverse systems that are undergoing major transformations or have low levels of resilience see Walker and Salt , Smajgl and Larson Sources: as noted in the text Section Six: Insights into factors that facilitate adaptive governance As outlined above, most of the adaptive governance literature has focused on governing the extraction of conditionally renewable resources that are embedded in complex adaptive social and natural systems.
Such improvements will generally require policy changes, however, due to the strong public good characteristics of environmental quality. Almost by definition, these conditions — particularly the last — do not hold for many of our most intractable environmental issues, such as dryland salinity or climate change. Indeed, if these conditions did hold the issues would not be politically intractable. The key insight for economists and policy technicians is that policy adoption is governed by knowledge, attitudes, and political economy — all of which evolve over time.
Knowledge motivates action and has moral influence which sometimes leads people to avoid acquiring knowledge that may constrain their behavior, see Danna et al But more importantly, community engagement in decision processes impacts on the understandings and attitudes of those involved, which can expand the space for negotiation and agreement Brunckhorst , Brunner and Steelman b, Hatfield-Dodds The first of these roles focuses on the political economy of policy change, which usually requires a problem to be demonstrated and accepted by the general public before governments can take decisive action.
Concluding Comments: Insights for achieving sustainability Our central argument is that the notion of adaptive governance is valuable to those interested in the dynamics of interdependent social and environmental systems because it can help us to understand the factors that jointly determine both the effectiveness of policy strategies or other interventions and the adoptability of these potential solutions. Moreover, it does this through integrating specific disciplinary contributions within a coherent framework.
It can therefore help improve researchers understanding of the wider system we work within, and help us to be more effective in our engagement with policy issues and the associated development of social responses to these. The first is to contribute to a social process of consensus building around the need — or otherwise — for collective action.
The second is more familiar to economists and policy advisors, and focuses on providing more technical advice that helps inform the details of how to best implement that mandate. While it is distinctive, the adaptive governance literature also shares substantial common ground with essential tenets of economics. Individuals are considered to be essentially rational actors who pursue a mix of goals in decision environment that includes other independent strategic actors. Decision environments — such firms, markets, and regulatory bodies — evolve over time in response to competitive pressures and resource feedbacks.
Information is frequently imperfect and unevenly distributed. Values also vary across individuals and groups. The literature also provide a useful integrative framework for the analysis of policy issues, providing bridges to related disciplines such as public choice, experimental economics, and behavioral psychology while maintaining a coherent intellectual core.
We thus conclude that the notion of adaptive governance has the potential to play a role akin to the concept of market failure within economics, but applied to institutional dynamics and associated processes of social learning and collective choice. Coupled with insights from ecology and the analysis of complex adaptive systems, and from other empirical social sciences, this could make a powerful contribution to the identification of effective and attractive options for addressing the many challenges humanity faces in making the transition to sustainable development.
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