Climate adaptation has become a pressing issue, but it doesn’t follow that every adaptation to climate change is necessarily a good one. There are risks to viewing adaptation as a narrowly defensive task, focused on protecting resources and services from climate change impacts. As has been demonstrated in this training resource – in particular the presentations on assessing vulnerabilities and the barriers to adaptation,– climate change is a product and driver of social systems as well as natural ones.
What does this mean for the future?
The success of an adaptation measure or strategy will be evaluated against it’s sustainability, not simply financial, but also in terms of it’s effect on on social justice, intergenerational equity and environmental integrity.
In their review article, Identifying Principles for Sustainable Adaptation, Eriksen and colleagues argue that sustainable adaptation practices have the potential to address shortcomings in conventional social and economic development pathways (Eriksen et al., 2011). However, in order to achieve this, transformational measures – new rights, claims and changes in political regimes – need to be employed.
fundamental societal transformations are required in order to achieve sustainable development pathways and avoid adaptation funding going into efforts that exacerbate vulnerability and contribute to rising emissions (Eriksen et al., 2011)
Greater and greater consideration is being given to the social movement of transition (incremental social change and the exercising of existing rights) examples of which can be found in the transition town movement, and of the future potential/ need for transformation. A brief introduction to the concept of transformational adaptation is provided on the following page, with additional material available in the resource and links section of this unit.