Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation




College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Edward R. Carr


River deltas are complex natural environments that represent a confluence of many physical, biological and human processes vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The likely biophysical impacts of climate change on deltas have received substantial attention. However, relatively little attention has been paid to the ways in which the different stakeholders of deltaic environments frame the vulnerability of residents of deltas to climate change. The Volta River Delta (VRD) of Ghana is a compelling site in which to conduct such an examination because of the clear climaterelated changes taking place in the Delta, and the fact that like many major delta areas in the world, the VRD is at the end of a managed river system heavily influenced by an upstream dam.

This study aims to further our understanding of how the identification of climaterelated vulnerabilities, and the selection of interventions to address those vulnerabilities, can result in unintended outcomes that enhance, instead of ameliorate, vulnerabilities related to climate change, but also proceeding from other sources. It does so by applying the theoretical framework of governmentality in examining the different positions of various actors relative to the Ada Sea Defense System (AdSDS) in order to understand how the perceptions of these actors construct the vulnerability of a particular place and its population to the impacts of climate change, identify sea defense systems (SDS) as an adaptation to climate change, and understand, experience, and respond to the outcomes of that sea defense system – particularly outcomes one could consider as maladaptive.

This exploration of vulnerability and adaptation to coastal erosion in the VRD demonstrates that the complex environments of river deltas require multidimensional approaches through which to attempt to trace observed processes of (mal)adaptation and give reason for the outcomes, good and bad, that result. This dissertation contributes to this process – in particular the politics of adaptation; and how an analysis of such politics can assist in our understanding of maladaptation. Such understanding can enable future adaptation decisions that promote the sustainability and well-being of coastal populations in Ghana and beyond.

Included in

Geography Commons