Our research delivers data-driven insights to decision-makers as governments and communities confront the reality of a rapidly changing climate. A cross-cutting theme is a focus on equity to protect and empower populations most vulnerable to climate change impacts. Our research is organized as follows:

  • Politics and Governance (see below)
  • Planning and Housing (see below)
  • Heat Equity (see our dedicated webpage featuring research on Heat Governance and Policy; Planning for Heat-Resilient Communities; and Actionable Data for Heat-Health Equity)

Politics and Governance

Reshaping Communities: Local Political Response to Climate Risks (current project)

Researcher: Megan Mullin

Project supported by an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship on the role of local democracy in reshaping towns and cities as they confront growing climate hazards. The research examines whether local efforts to become more resilient reinforce racial and economic inequalities caused by past policies.

Local News Reporting and Mass Attitudes on Infrastructure Investment (2024 article in Political Behavior)

Researchers: Andrew Trexler and Megan Mullin
Funder: Duke University

Investing in basic infrastructure is vital for communities’ climate resilience, but the public is often unaware of the need for investment and the consequences of infrastructure deterioration. This study used evidence from a national survey experiment to show that content-rich local news reporting increases public support for preventive spending and willingness to hold local leaders accountable for failing to invest in prevention. Maintaining a climate-resilient physical infrastructure is tied to maintaining the civic infrastructure of local news.

US Partisan Polarization on Climate Change: Can Stalemate Give Way to Opportunity? (2023 article in Political Science & Politics)

Researchers: Megan Mullin and Patrick J Egan

This study highlights three recent developments that could advance climate policy, despite partisan politics: 1) partisan cohesion and Democratic initiative, 2) clean-energy expansion in Republican states, and 3) partisan distribution of climate impacts.

Urban Heat Governance: Examining the Role of Urban Planning (2023 article in Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning)

Researchers: Ladd Keith, C.J. Gabbe, and Erika Schmidt
Funder: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

This study examined five large, climatically-diverse US cities to better understand urban heat governance with a focus on the field of urban planning. The researchers found that aspects of heat planning occur across a variety of municipal plans but only a small number of strategies were explicitly framed in terms of heat, suggesting an opportunity to better connect heat with other policy goals.

The following research was led by Megan Mullin as she transitioned her role as a professor at Duke University to LCI’s faculty director.

Buyouts with Rentbacks: A policy Proposal for Managing Coastal Retreat (2022 article in Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences)

Researchers: Andrew G. Keeler, Megan Mullin, Dylan E. McNamara & Martin D. Smith

This article introduces an innovation in buyout policy that would allow residents to remain in their homes as renters after being bought out. The researchers develop the basic structure of such a policy, recommend funding mechanisms, and discuss the policy’s potential for improving outcomes in the case of necessary migration away from coastal areas.

To Adapt to Climate Impacts, Come to Grips with Politics (2022 article in Nature)

Researcher: Megan Mullin

This article speaks to the need to understand and surmount political hurdles to adapt to climate change.

External Drivers of Participation in Regional Collaborative Water Planning (2022 article in Policy Studies Journal)

Researchers: Emily V. Bell, Amanda Fencl, Megan Mullin

This research examined participation by water service providers in collaborative planning forums. Researchers find: participation in regional water planning is associated with perceived risk to water supply from changing climatic conditions, but not with perceived risk from changing patterns of demand.

Avoiding climate change: “Agnostic adaptation” and the politics of public silence (2020 article in Annals of the American Association of Geographers)

Researcher: Liz Koslov

The term agnostic adaptation refers to actions that address climate change’s effects without acknowledging its existence or human causes. This article explores how action and silence coexist and even serve to reinforce each other.

Is Coastal Adaptation a Public Good? The Financing Implications of Good Characteristics in Coastal Adaptation (2020 article in Journal of Environmental Planning and Management)

Researchers: Sierra C. Woodruff, Megan Mullin & Malini Roy

The researchers argue that good characteristics of coastal adaptation – subtractability, excludability, heterogeneity, joint production, and capital intensity – create political opportunities for application of financing mechanisms such as property taxes, district-level finance, and bonds. Exploring the good characteristics of an adaptation strategy can help communities identify an appropriate and feasible mechanism for financing it.

The Effects of Drinking Water Service Fragmentation on Drought-related Water Security (2020 article in Science)

Researcher: Megan Mullin

This discussion of the local political economy of drinking water provision reveals the constraints on community water systems that affect their performance when confronting drought hazards. Fragmentation in responsibility for drinking water contributes to disparities in drought vulnerability, preparation, and response across households and across communities.

Paying to Save the Beach: Effects of Local Finance Decisions on Coastal Management (2018 article in Climate Change)

Researchers: Megan Mullin, Martin D. Smith & Dylan E. McNamara

This study evaluates how project costs affect coastline management over the long term. Results from modeling cost distributions demonstrate that delineating tax rates to account for unequal benefits of local public goods could facilitate local investment in climate change adaptation.