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Adaptation and transformation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Mark Pelling, Karen O'Brien, David Matyas

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-127
Number of pages15
Issue number1
Early online date18 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015


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Transformation as an adaptive response to climate change opens a range of novel policy options. Used to describe responses that produce non-linear changes in systems or their host social and ecological environments, transformation also raises distinct ethical and procedural questions for decision-makers. Expanding adaptation to include transformation foregrounds questions of power and preference that have so far been underdeveloped in adaptation theory and practice. We build on David Harvey’s notion of activity space to derive a framework and research agenda for climate change adaptation seen as a political decisionpoint and as an opportunity for transformation, incremental adjustment or resistance to change in development pathway. Decision-making is unpacked through the notion of the activity space into seven coevolving sites: the individual, technology, livelihoods, discourse, behaviour, the environment and institutions. The framework is tested against practitioner priorities to define an agenda that can make coherent advances in research and practice on climate change adaptation.

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