Climate Change Relocation as an Adaptation Strategy: from Taboo to Opportunity

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Virginia Tech

Relocation is often taboo among policy makers and planners due to its political, social, and ethical connotations, and although increasingly mentioned as one of the potential climate change adaptation strategies, it mostly adheres to rhetoric with limited discussion of its actual implementation. Scientific study and observation indicate the imminence of climate change impacts, many of which may exceed the adaptive capacity of vulnerability hotspots. Therefore, it is imperative to reassess this response option in the light of its past negative reputation, the success of current initiatives, and decision makers' evolving perception of relocation as an adaptation option. The main objective of this dissertation research is to determine the need for, interest in, and prospects for community relocations as an adaptation option; explore ways to address limitations associated with this alternative, and identify opportunities that could emerge from the relocation process.

This study reviews experiences from the past and current relocation efforts and gauges the current level of interest in and support for this adaptation option among policy makers and planners. It also provides conceptual models - the relocation scenario, its digitalized simulation, the Climate Change Relocation Leaf, and the Relocation Suitability Index - designed to help communities, policy makers and planners explore this alternative. The research commences with a comprehensive literature review of theoretical knowledge, past experiences, current case studies, and the existing state of institutional, political, and social perspectives related to climate change migration and relocation. It continues with a comparative content analysis of climate change adaptation plans to elucidate the relocation rhetoric utilized in the selected texts at what frequency and in what context. Next, the study represents the climate change relocation models and a scenario developed to engage decision-makers and stakeholders in assessing the need for and possibility of relocation. Lastly, the project concludes with the development of a conceptual and tabular framework for the Relocation Suitability Index and subsequent simulation designed to compare possible relocation host sites systematically based on their absorption capacity.

relocation, retreat, Climate change adaptation, migration