Are there social limits to adaptation to climate change?
Adger, W., Dessai, S., Goulden, M., Hulme, M., Lorenzoni, I., Nelson, D., Naess, L., et al. (2009). Are there social limits to adaptation to climate change? Climatic Change, 93(3-4), 335-354. doi:10.1007/s10584-008-9520-z
AbstractWhile there is a recognised need to adapt to changing climatic conditions,
there is an emerging discourse of limits to such adaptation. Limits are traditionally
analysed as a set of immutable thresholds in biological, economic or technological
parameters. This paper contends that limits to adaptation are endogenous to society
and hence contingent on ethics, knowledge, attitudes to risk and culture. We review
insights from history, sociology and psychology of risk, economics and political
science to develop four propositions concerning limits to adaptation. First, any
limits to adaptation depend on the ultimate goals of adaptation underpinned by
diverse values. Second, adaptation need not be limited by uncertainty around future
foresight of risk. Third, social and individual factors limit adaptation action. Fourth,
systematic undervaluation of loss of places and culture disguises real, experienced
but subjective limits to adaptation. We conclude that these issues of values and ethics,
risk, knowledge and culture construct societal limits to adaptation, but that these
limits are mutable.