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Christian Hunold, PhD, and Franco Montalto, PhD, Receive Grant to Explore and Understand the Dynamics of American Cities’ Responses to Climate Change

February 18, 2014

Dr. Christian Hunold, Associate Professor, Department of History and Politics and Dr. Franco Montalto, Associate Professor, Civil Architectural, and Environmental Engineering were recently awarded a Social Science Research Fund (SSRF) grant in the amount of $7,600 for the project  “Cities and Climate Change: Comparing Philadelphia, Phoenix, and San Diego.”

C. Hunold

Cities have planned for disasters in the past, but in almost all instances these potential disasters were discrete, singular events, such as a nuclear war, riots, floods, or terrorist attacks. While some of the impact of climate change will take the form of such singular and isolated events, it will also involve more gradual processes of change for which cities must plan differently. The award will support Hunold and Montalto, in their quest to seek to understand the dynamics of American cities’ responses to climate change.

There is much variation in the capacity of cities to develop effective long-term climate change adaptation strategies. Hence a comparative perspective is an important part of the project. Hunold and Montalto hope to make a methodological contribution to the discussion of how large American cities can be viewed as comparative case studies. In the study of urban politics, cities are often described as case studies for various purposes, though the sense in which they are cases is often left vague. But the most sophisticated methodological discussions of case study research have hardly, if ever, been applied to cities. Their study offers an opportunity to evaluate cities as case studies, and thus to understand how cities might be made more relevant to empirical social science research.

ThiMontaltos winter quarter, the Center for Public Policy is sponsoring a class on Cities and Climate Change that includes guest lectures and consultations with academics and government officials from Phoenix, San Diego, and Philadelphia. The class will serve to make initial contacts with folks from San Diego and Phoenix in order to begin building a network of potential collaborators. Hunold will also travel to both cities this year to conduct further interviews and site visits. The goal is to develop narratives for each city through which we can begin to understand the political, legal, and organizational factors that have determined their respective responses to climate change.