Making sense of climate impacts: understanding and dealing with the variety of climate change frames in governance processes (Martijn Vink)

The governance of climate change adaptation requires working across consecutive policy cycles, different levels of governance and different sectors. It involves power play over interests, as well as puzzlement over uncertainty (Heclo, 1974) and widely diverging problem definitions or frames (Schön and Rein, 1994).

In this process the intrinsic uncertainty over long term climate change impacts may be used as a reason not to act to protect vested interests, or the other way around, new interests may be formulated following new knowledge claims, or frames. A textbook example of a wicked context (Rittel and Webber, 1973) in which negotiations over the allocation of scarce resources or responsibility risk to strand in Babylonian confusion. In my research I propose the concept of interactive framing (Dewulf 2009) as a means of better understanding the interplay of meaning and power in climate adaptation policy processes at and between different governance layers and stakeholders.

The research is carried out in cooperation with stakeholders from Dutch regional and national 'hotspots' for climate adaptation, and is among one of the first research projects in the field of climate adaptation governance that longitudinally investigates the frame interactions ‘on the ground’ in governance processes and makes sense of how these frame interactions relate to societal controversy and actual policy outcomes. The research yielded 5 peer reviewed scientific publications in journals like Environmental Science and Policy, Ecology and Society and the Journal of Water and Climate Change. The synthesis of the research project I will defend this autumn as my dissertation entitled: Navigating Frames; a study of the interplay between meaning and power in policy deliberations over adaptation to climate change.