Facing the Rising Tide: How Local Governments in the United States Collaborate to Adapt to Sea Level Rise Dissertation

thesis or dissertation chair

fiu authors

  • Kalesnikaite, Vaiva


  • While communities in the United States are already experiencing the effects of climate change, scientists project that sea level rise, increased precipitation, and record-breaking extreme weather events will devastate vulnerable regions in the following decades. The absence of federal strategies for climate change adaptation leaves state and city governments with broad discretion to undertake climate change adaptation measures. Yet cities may be unable to adapt to climate change without external assistance, particularly in states where the state leadership has not recognized the need to provide political and financial support to local governments. Collaboration allows cities to pool resources and work across boundaries to ameliorate significant problems such as climate change.

    Scholars of public administration have extensively researched collaboration. However, we still know little about what factors facilitate horizontal collaboration and why and how collaborative governance may lead to improved policy outputs and outcomes. Using the case of sea level rise preparedness in US cities, this dissertation contributes to better understanding of horizontal collaboration and its effects on public service provision. The analysis draws on quantitative data from surveys, administered to US municipal governments, and qualitative data from semi-structured interviews with city officials.

    This research has several principal findings. First, organizational propensity to collaborate on sea level rise preparedness is driven by leadership that recognizes the value and need for collaboration, and internal organizational characteristics. Second, horizontal collaboration helps cities advance plans for sea level rise adaptation, particularly when partnering with institutions of higher learning and businesses. Third, the findings show that collaboration with other municipalities and businesses is a positive contributing factor toward better preparedness for sea level rise in US cities.

    By shedding more light on horizontal collaboration as a tool to help cities adapt to changes in climate, the study contributes to two bodies of literature, including research on climate change policy and collaborative governance. The study also provides a number of recommendations to local policy makers and public administrators on how to facilitate horizontal collaboration to utilize local resources in public problem-solving.

publication date

  • June 11, 2018


  • Public administration
  • climate change
  • collaborative governance
  • local governments
  • public management

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)