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Comparing Shanghai and New York’s Adaptation Governance (SNAG)


This project compares how two megacities – Shanghai and New York – are planning for the impacts of climate change. It is a collaboration with Dr. Ruishan Chen at Shanghai Jiaotong University (SJTU) and is supported by a seed grant from SJTU and Cornell. We focus on New York and Shanghai as emblematic cities by which to compare U.S. and Chinese adaptation. We examine the factors that enable these responses and the impacts of different adaptation approaches on implementation.

            First, we hypothesize that both cities are pursuing continued coastal intensification, despite New York’s more bottom up, long-standing, and inclusive planning process. If indeed is the case, then it raises questions as to the relative importance of local planning processes versus global economic development imperatives and the aspirations of world cities. Second, we hypothesize that, while the United States is comparatively ahead in the willingness of practitioners, academics, and even some policy makers to discuss managed retreat from flood prone areas, China’s land governance system is more capable to enabling managed retreat should the national government prioritize this strategy. In both countries, if historic outcomes are any indication of future relocation projects, large-scale managed retreat could significantly negatively impact groups, especially disadvantaged groups such as rural migrants and minority communities.

            Our goal is to connect Chinese adaptation discourse – still nascent and mostly in Chinese – with global adaptation debates, while simultaneously considering how China’s unique governance system contributes to our understanding of adaptation strategies and possibilities. While neither country is likely to dramatically change fundamental tenets of land governance, the comparison may highlight aspects of each system’s merits that offer opportunities for future learning and exchange.


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