Many levels of government are already engaged in adapting to and limiting the magnitude of climate change (Betsill and Bulkeley, 2006; Betstill and Rabe, 2009; Paterson, 2009; Rabe, 2008; Schreurs, 2008; Selin and VanDeveer, 2007). Public-private partnerships and public-social partnerships (between business and communities) add to the complexity of emerging policy (Lemos and Agrawal, 2006). This complexity raises important questions about the legitimacy of climate policy, including the scope and means of representation of stakeholder interests (Falkner, 2003; Ford, 2003). It also raises questions about the distribution of resources, and about how negative externalities from the policies can be avoided or corrected (Bäckstrand, 2006; Cashore, 2002; Lemos and Agrawal, 2006).
The multilevel governance system of climate policy presents both opportunities and challenges for policy makers. The federal government can learn from and build on policy "experiments" enacted at the state level and capitalize on existing networks to expand political coalitions (Peterson and Rose, 2006). However, the capacity of decision makers operating at any one level can be enhanced or (more frequently) constrained by the policies at other levels (Adger et al., 2007; Betsill and Bulkeley, 2006; Moser, 2009b). The appropriate mode of governing depends on the character of the problem and available resources (including knowledge), the dynamics of the sector involved, the availability of policy options for other policy actors, and the constellation of political interests around a policy (Dietz and Henry, 2008; Dietz et al., 2003; Ostrom, 2005, 2007; Selin and VanDeveer, 2007).
Recent literature also suggests that polycentric policy (i.e., policy that does not originate from and is not implemented in just one, central decision-making unit but is carried out by multiple, linked centers of authority) may be more robust and adaptable than policies implemented by a single unit of government (Andersson and Ostrom, 2008; Ostrom, 2007, 2010; Pinto and De Oliveira, 2008).
In the case of adaptation policy, the implications of multilevel, hybrid forms and polycentric governance both domestically and internationally are many and varied. Processes at the global and national levels will influence local adaptation decisions and vice versa; in the United States and around the world, a great variety of actors and institutions including local, regional, state, federal, and tribal authorities will influence those decisions (e.g., Agrawal, 2008; Armitage et al., 2007; Bulkeley, 2005; Cash et al.,
2006b; Moser, 2009b; Rabe, 2008; Urwin and Jordan, 2008). For example, in less developed regions, adaptation policy critically intersects with development and decentralization of government authority (Agrawala, 2004; Burton et al., 2007; Eakin and Lemos, 2006; Klein et al., 2007; Kok et al., 2008; World Bank, 2009).
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