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By Sierra Woodruff, Postdoctoral Researcher, ND-GAIN

A ton of carbon emitted in California, has the same affect on climate as a ton emitted in West Virginia or China. Emissions from all sources and all countries determine concentrations of green house gases in the atmosphere and subsequent climate change. Mitigation efforts to curb green house gas emissions likewise benefit everyone. Consequently, climate mitigation is inherently a public goods problem.

Countries and individuals have little incentive to reduce emissions since they alone will bare the cost but everyone will benefit. International agreements and collective action are intended to distribute costs, discourage free riding and, in doing so, secure greater benefits. As such collective action is critical for climate mitigation.

Climate change adaptation is inherently different since individuals accrue benefits from their actions. If a homeowner living on the coast decides to elevate their home, they will benefit. Consequently, much of adaptation will be very local and taken by private parties.

By Sierra Woodruff, Postdoctoral Researcher, ND-GAIN

Originally published on Public Administration Review


The impacts of climate change – more frequent flooding, extreme heat waves, longer droughts, shifting disease vectors – have drastic consequences for multiple governmental sectors and departments. Yet, climate change has predominately been framed as an environmental issue and early adaptation efforts were led by environmental departments. Recent research examining the quality of climate change adaptation plans at the national, regional, and local scales indicate that who is involved in preparing the plan has a critical influence on the level of public participation, coordination, and breadth of strategies.


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