Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Ecosystem Science and Policy (Graduate)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Kenneth Broad

Second Committee Member

David Letson

Third Committee Member

Jessica Bolson

Fourth Committee Member

Robert Meyer


South Florida’s low elevation, intensive urban development, and delicate ecosystems make it vulnerable to sea level rise. A gap exists between the current policies local governments in South Florida pursue and adaptation that could significantly reduce their exposure to climate change risks. One reason for this gap is that climate adaptation requires a transition away from the status quo, and barriers impede change. This dissertation presents three studies that aim to help communities in the region embrace and address their climate change risks. Chapter 2 reports the findings of an immersive simulation experiment that accelerates South Florida homeowners through thirty-five years of sea level rise and finds a window for local government action. Over 70% of homeowners are willing to support public investments in adaptation, and though most are not worried now, as sea levels rise homeowners become increasingly worried and willing to move out of the region. Chapter 3 is a case study of local government response, in the City of Miami Beach. Applying the new Urgency, Barriers, and Risk framework, it describes the implementation of a $500 million climate adaptive stormwater infrastructure investment, during a period of accelerated policy change. Chapter 4 identifies a new role, the neo-oliemannetje, that has emerged in the Netherlands over the past two decades to support climate adaptive water management projects. The neo-oliemannetje is a third-party facilitators whose role is to build consensus and articulate co-benefits to overcome barriers to policy change. Chapter 5 concludes with recommendations for local governments and future research.


sea level rise; climate change; South Florida; adaptation; water; risk