Linda Shi

I am a doctoral candidate at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning. My research and professional practice focuses on urban environmental governance, and advancing planning policies to manage the urban climate transition in ways that improve social equity. My dissertation examines emerging metropolitan experiments in climate adaptation planning in the United States, the challenges and opportunities of planning at this scale, and the implications for policy. 

An urban environmental planner by training, I have worked for AECOM, the Institute for International Urban Development, and the Rocky Mountain Institute, and consulted for the World Bank and American Institute of Architects on projects and research in the United States, Asia, Latin America, and Africa. I have a master’s in urban planning from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and a bachelor’s and master’s in environmental management from Yale University.

Dissertation Abstract

Cities are increasingly experiencing the impacts of climate change, and many are taking actions to prepare for climate disasters, reduce their vulnerability, and account for climate impacts in future planning. The experiences of early adapters show that local governments face numerous challenges planning and implementing adaptation actions due to their limited resources and capacities, lack of authority over major infrastructure, social welfare, and environmental systems, and the limited status of state and federal resources and mandates for local climate adaptation. 

In response, a number of metropolitan areas in the United States have developed new regional collaboratives to plan for climate adaptation. Reflecting trends toward adaptation at the regional scale in other countries, foundations and the federal and state governments in the United States are showing interest in the promise of regional adaptation initiatives to capitalize on economies of scale while overcoming the limitations of top down and bottom up initiatives. While research has analyzed adaptation at the municipal level and the need for multilevel coordination between global, national, and state governments, few studies have assessed the role of or challenges to adaptation at the scale of the metropolitan region.

This dissertation explores the promise and limits of regional adaptation planning in light of multi-decadal trends away from state regulation and toward collaborative, voluntary ad hoc regionalism, with concomitant decreased funding and authority for formal regional structures. Within this context, my research asks: 

  1. What are the primary types of regional adaptation and their defining characteristics?
  2. Why do these collaboratives take the forms and functions that they do? How are collaborative leaders working within inherited institutional structures to promote regional adaptation, and to what effect?
  3. Should these experiments be replicated, and if so, how can they be improved? 

I examine these questions by analyzing the experiences of five collaboratives in metro Boston, Northeast Florida, Southeast Florida, the San Francisco Bay Area, and San Diego. I look at how variations in state policies on climate change and regional governance, and levels of fragmentation affect the form and function of regional collaboratives. I use a combination of in-depth interviews, plan and document review, and historical analysis to conduct this research. The analysis will allow me identify policy recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of regional initiatives, and advance the academic literature on the politics of scale in urban adaptation governance.  

Recent Publications

Anguelovski, I., Shi, L., Chu, E., Gallagher, D., Goh, K., Lamb, Z., Reeve, K., and Teicher, H.  (under review). “Towards Critical Studies of Climate Adaptation Planning: Uncovering the Equity Impacts of Urban Land Use Planning.” Journal of Planning Education and Research

Shi, L., Anguelovski, I., Aylett, A., Chu, E., Debats, J., Dodman, D., Goh, K., Roberts, D., Roberts, J.T., Schenk, T., Seto, K., and S. VanDeveer. (accepted for publication). “Towards Justice in Urban Climate Adaptation: A Roadmap for Research and Practice.” Nature Climate Change.

Shi, L., Chu, E., and J. Carmin. (2016). “The Effects of City Size and Governance Capacity on Urban Climate Adaptation Planning and Implementation: Results from a Global Survey.” In K. Seto and W. Solecki (eds.), Handbook on Urbanization and Global Environmental Change. Philadelphia: Taylor and Francis.

Shi, L., Chu, E., and J. Debats. (2015). “Explaining Progress in Climate Adaptation Planning across 156 U.S. Municipalities.” Journal of the American Planning Association, 81 (3): 191-202.

Carmin, J., K. Tierney, E. Chu, L. Hunter, T. Roberts, and L. Shi. (2015). “Adaptation to Climate Change.” In R.E. Dunlap and R. Brulle (eds.), Sociological Perspectives on Climate Change. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Shi, L. (2013). Urban Hazards and Resilience in South Asia. Contributing report for the South Asia Region Urbanization Flagship. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.

Shi, L. (2013). Methodology to Identify Target Cities for Climate Change-Focused Technical Assistance. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.

Shi, L., M. Escobar, B. Joyce, and J. Kostaras. (2013). Strategic Land Use Planning for Climate Change-Driven Water Shortages in El Alto, Bolivia (Working Paper). Cambridge, MA: Lincoln Institute for Land Policy. 

Areas of Interest
Climate Change, Environmental Planning, Land Use, Social Equity, Sustainability