Limits to adaptation to climate change: a risk approach

Kirstin Dow*, Frans Berkhout, Benjamin L. Preston

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

As attention to adaptation to climate change increases, there is a growing call for adaptation approaches that focus on risk management. There is also greater recognition that the rate and magnitude of climate variability and change may exceed the limits to adaptation of socio-ecological systems. We offer an actor-centered, risk-based definition for adaptation limits in social systems. Specifically, we frame adaptation limits as the point at which an actor's objectives cannot be secured from intolerable risks through adaptive actions. These limits are significant because exceeding a limit will either result in intolerable losses on the affected actor or system, or precipitate a discontinuous (or transformational) change of behavior by actors. Such discontinuities in behavior have implications for the distribution of risks, with potentially significant governance consequences. We further argue that some adaptation limits are dynamic through time. We conclude with recommendations for further research into adaptation limits and challenges to risk governance.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberN/A
Pages (from-to)384-391
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent opinion in environmental sustainability
Volume5
Issue number3-4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013

Keywords

  • SOCIAL AMPLIFICATION
  • FRAMEWORK
  • UNCERTAINTY
  • DIMENSIONS
  • PERCEPTION
  • GOVERNANCE
  • IMPACTS

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