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Open AccessArticle

Comparing Conceptualizations of Urban Climate Resilience in Theory and Practice

by Sara Meerow 1,* and Melissa Stults 1,2,3
School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA
Urban and Regional Planning, Unviersity of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA
The Climate Resilience Fund, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Patricia Romero-Lankao, Olga Wilhelmi and Mary Hayden
Sustainability 2016, 8(7), 701;
Received: 27 May 2016 / Revised: 6 July 2016 / Accepted: 18 July 2016 / Published: 21 July 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Urban Resilience and Urban Sustainability: From Research to Practice)
In the face of climate change, scholars and policymakers are increasingly concerned with fostering “urban resilience”. This paper seeks to contribute towards a better understanding of synergies and differences in how academics and local decision-makers think about resilience in the context of climate change. We compare definitions and characteristics of urban climate resilience in the academic literature with a survey of 134 local government representatives from across the U.S. Our analysis shows discrepancies in how academics and practitioners define and characterize urban climate resilience, most notably in their focus on either “bouncing back” or “bouncing forward” after a disturbance. Practitioners have diverse understandings of the concept, but tend to favor potentially problematic “bouncing back” or engineering-based definitions of resilience. While local government respondents confirm the importance of all 16 resilience characteristics we identified in the academic literature, coding practitioners’ free response definitions reveals that they rarely mention qualities commonly associated with resilience in the scholarly literature such as diversity, flexibility, and redundancy. These inconsistencies need to be resolved to ensure both the usability of climate resilience research and the effectiveness of resilience policy. View Full-Text
Keywords: climate change; resilience; urban resilience; resilient city; climate resilience; adaptation climate change; resilience; urban resilience; resilient city; climate resilience; adaptation
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Meerow, S.; Stults, M. Comparing Conceptualizations of Urban Climate Resilience in Theory and Practice. Sustainability 2016, 8, 701.

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