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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 May 8;109(19):7156-61. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1115521109. Epub 2012 Apr 16.

Transformational adaptation when incremental adaptations to climate change are insufficient.

Author information

1
Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, and Department of Geography, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA.

Abstract

All human-environment systems adapt to climate and its natural variation. Adaptation to human-induced change in climate has largely been envisioned as increments of these adaptations intended to avoid disruptions of systems at their current locations. In some places, for some systems, however, vulnerabilities and risks may be so sizeable that they require transformational rather than incremental adaptations. Three classes of transformational adaptations are those that are adopted at a much larger scale, that are truly new to a particular region or resource system, and that transform places and shift locations. We illustrate these with examples drawn from Africa, Europe, and North America. Two conditions set the stage for transformational adaptation to climate change: large vulnerability in certain regions, populations, or resource systems; and severe climate change that overwhelms even robust human use systems. However, anticipatory transformational adaptation may be difficult to implement because of uncertainties about climate change risks and adaptation benefits, the high costs of transformational actions, and institutional and behavioral actions that tend to maintain existing resource systems and policies. Implementing transformational adaptation requires effort to initiate it and then to sustain the effort over time. In initiating transformational adaptation focusing events and multiple stresses are important, combined with local leadership. In sustaining transformational adaptation, it seems likely that supportive social contexts and the availability of acceptable options and resources for actions are key enabling factors. Early steps would include incorporating transformation adaptation into risk management and initiating research to expand the menu of innovative transformational adaptations.

PMID:
22509036
PMCID:
PMC3358899
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1115521109
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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