Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


The Role of Environmental Justice in Oregon's Climate Change Adaptation Planning Public Deposited

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  • Oregon has already experienced the impacts of climate change, and these impacts are expected to become increasingly severe and varied. In response, the State of Oregon has taken a number of actions to adapt to changing conditions, including coordinated planning approaches to climate change adaptation. However, climate change adaptation actions can exacerbate existing inequities when impacted communities do not participate or are not considered in the decision-making process. Oregon's Environmental Justice Law, ORS 182.535 et seq., was enacted to ensure that natural resource agencies integrate environmental justice principles-such as the equitable distribution of environmental burdens and benefits and meaningful involvement of impacted communities-into the decision-making process for every action, including climate change adaptation. This paper explores the experiences of some natural resource agencies' with applying Oregon's environmental justice law to climate change adaptation planning. Research questions addressed were (1) what role do environmental justice principles and environmental justice law play in and to what extent do they shape state-level adaptation efforts? and (2) what are potential barriers to integration of environmental justice into climate adaptation efforts? Document analysis and semi-structured interviews (n=19) were conducted to (1) describe the role that environmental justice principles and the environmental justice law played in three different state-level adaptation approaches and (2) identify perceived barriers to greater integration of environmental justice into these efforts. Two of the three efforts expressly sought to employ environmental justice principles, but took slightly different approaches. Barriers identified in each of the approaches, and for natural resource agencies in general, included lack of wide-spread understanding of the environmental justice law and environmental justice principles within some agencies; lack of community capacity to engage in decision-making; and lack of information about local and regional conditions. These findings indicate that the state may benefit from a comprehensive assessment of the challenges and barriers experienced by each of the natural resource agencies, as well as community-based assessments of both adaptation capacity and capacity to engage in natural resource agency decision-making processes.
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