899
16
Adaptation Opportunities,
Constraints, and Limits
Coordinating Lead Authors:
Richard J.T. Klein (Sweden), Guy F. Midgley (South Africa), Benjamin L. Preston (USA)
Lead Authors:
Mozaharul Alam (Bangladesh), Frans G.H. Berkhout (Netherlands), Kirstin Dow (USA),
M. Rebecca Shaw (USA)
Contributing Authors:
Wouter Botzen (Netherlands), Halvard Buhaug (Norway), Karl W. Butzer (USA),
E. Carina H. Keskitalo (Sweden), Yu’e Li (China), Elena Mateescu (Romania), Robert Muir-Wood
(UK), Johanna Mustelin (Finland/Australia), Hannah Reid (UK), Lauren Rickards (Australia),
Sarshen Scorgie (South Africa), Timothy F. Smith (Australia), Adelle Thomas (Bahamas),
Paul Watkiss (UK), Johanna Wolf (Germany/Canada)
Review Editors:
Habiba Gitay (Australia), James Thurlow (South Africa)
Volunteer Chapter Scientists:
Seraina Buob (Switzerland), Adelle Thomas (Bahamas)
This chapter should be cited as:
Klein
, R.J.T., G.F. Midgley, B.L. Preston, M. Alam, F.G.H. Berkhout, K. Dow, and M.R. Shaw, 2014: Adaptation
opportunities, constraints, and limits. In: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability.
Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Field, C.B., V.R. Barros, D.J. Dokken, K.J. Mach, M.D. Mastrandrea,
T.E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K.L. Ebi, Y.O. Estrada, R.C. Genova, B. Girma, E.S. Kissel, A.N. Levy, S. MacCracken,
P.R. Mastrandrea, and L.L. White (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and
New York, NY, USA, pp. 899-943.
16
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Executive Summary............................................................................................................................................................ 902
16.1. Introduction and Context ....................................................................................................................................... 904
16.1.1. Summary of Relevant AR4 Findings .................................................................................................................................................. 904
16.1.2. Summary of Relevant SREX Findings ................................................................................................................................................ 905
16.2. A Risk-Based Framework for Assessing Adaptation Opportunities, Constraints, and Limits ................................. 905
Box 16-1. Definitions of Adaptation Opportunities, Constraints, and Limits .............................................................................. 907
16.3. Adaptation Opportunities and Constraints ............................................................................................................ 908
16.3.1. Adaptation Opportunities ................................................................................................................................................................. 908
16.3.1.1. Enabling Conditions for Adaptation .................................................................................................................................. 908
Box 16-2. A Case Study of Opportunities for Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction .................................................. 910
16.3.1.2. Ancillary Benefits of Adaptation ........................................................................................................................................ 910
16.3.2. Adaptation Constraints ..................................................................................................................................................................... 911
16.3.2.1. Knowledge, Awareness, and Technology Constraints ......................................................................................................... 911
Box 16-3. Rates of Change as a Cross-Cutting Constraint ............................................................................................... 912
16.3.2.2. Physical Constraints .......................................................................................................................................................... 913
16.3.2.3. Biological Constraints ........................................................................................................................................................ 913
16.3.2.4. Economic Constraints ........................................................................................................................................................ 914
16.3.2.5. Financial Constraints ......................................................................................................................................................... 914
16.3.2.6. Human Resource Constraints ............................................................................................................................................ 915
16.3.2.7. Social and Cultural Constraints .......................................................................................................................................... 915
16.3.2.8. Governance and Institutional Constraints ......................................................................................................................... 916
16.3.2.9. Constraints and Competing Values .................................................................................................................................... 917
16.3.2.10. Consideration of Cross-Scale Dynamics ........................................................................................................................... 918
16.4. Limits to Adaptation ............................................................................................................................................... 919
16.4.1. Hard and Soft Limits ......................................................................................................................................................................... 919
Box 16-4. Historical Perspectives on Limits to Adaptation ......................................................................................................... 920
16.4.2. Limits and Transformational Adaptation ........................................................................................................................................... 921
16.5. Sectoral and Regional Synthesis ............................................................................................................................. 922
16.5.1. Sectoral Synthesis ............................................................................................................................................................................. 922
16.5.2. Regional Synthesis ............................................................................................................................................................................ 922
Table of Contents
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16.6. Effects of Mitigation on Adaptation Opportunities, Constraints, and Limits ......................................................... 924
16.7. Ethical Dimensions of Adaptation Opportunities, Constraints, and Limits ............................................................. 925
16.8. Seizing Opportunities, Overcoming Constraints, and Avoiding Limits ................................................................... 927
References ......................................................................................................................................................................... 927
Frequently Asked Questions
16.1: What is the difference between an adaptation barrier, constraint, obstacle, and limit? .................................................................... 906
16.2: What opportunities are available to facilitate adaptation? ............................................................................................................... 908
16.3: How does greenhouse gas mitigation influence the risk of exceeding adaptation limits? ................................................................ 924
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Executive Summary
Risk-based approaches to decision making provide a useful foundation for assessing the potential opportunities, constraints, and
limits associated with adaptation of human and natural systems (medium evidence, high agreement). Risk management frames the
consequences of climate change and potential adaptation responses in the context of actors’ values, objectives, and planning horizons as they
make decisions under uncertainty. Adaptation planning and implementation are therefore contingent on actors’ perceptions of risk. Some risks
may be routine and/or the consequences so minor that they are accepted. Other risks may be judged intolerable because they pose fundamental
threats to actors’ objectives or the sustainability of natural systems. A key objective of adaptation is to avoid such intolerable risks. Yet, the
capacity of societal actors and natural systems to adapt is finite, and thus there are limits to adaptation. {16.2, 16.3.2, 16.4, Box 16-1}
Understanding of how the adaptive capacity of societal actors and natural systems influences the potential for adaptation to
effectively manage climate risk has improved since the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4; very high confidence). Adaptive capacity is
influenced by actors’ abilities to capitalize on available opportunities that ease the planning and implementation of adaptation as well as
constraints that make adaptation processes more difficult for both human and natural systems. Opportunities and constraints are unevenly
distributed among global regions, communities, sectors, ecological systems, and species as well as across different time periods. Recent studies
have provided greater recognition of the role of private businesses in facilitating adaptation. However, much of the current knowledge about
adaptation opportunities and constraints is dominated by insights from public institutions and community-based case studies. {16.2-5, Box 16-1}
Opportunities exist to enable adaptation planning and implementation for actors across all sectors and geographic regions (very
high confidence). Adaptation guidance, information, and tools are increasingly available to practitioners operating in different sectoral,
regional, and organizational contexts. Enhancing the awareness of individuals, organizations, and institutions about climate change vulnerability,
impacts, and adaptation can help build individual and institutional capacity for adaptation planning and implementation. However, addressing
knowledge deficits alone is not sufficient to achieve successful adaptation. The development and provision of tools for risk and vulnerability
assessment as well as decision-support tools and early warning systems can help actors prioritize adaptation needs and identify options that
reduce vulnerability. Opportunities can also arise as actors learn from experience with climate variability and incorporate consideration for
long-term climate change into disaster risk reduction efforts. Formal policies regarding infrastructure design standards or spatial planning can
trigger adaptation action. However, many adaptation opportunities arise as ancillary benefits of actions implemented for reasons other than
climate change. {16.2, 16.3.1, 16.5; Tables 16-1, 16-3; Boxes 16-1, 16-2, CC-EA}
A range of biophysical, institutional, financial, social, and cultural factors constrain the planning and implementation of adaptation
options and potentially reduce their effectiveness (very high confidence). Adaptation of both human and natural systems is influenced
by the rate of climate change as well as rates of economic development, demographic change, ecosystem alteration, and technological innovation.
Adaptation planning and implementation may require significant inputs of knowledge as well as human, social, and financial capital. Real or
perceived deficiencies in access to such resources can and do constrain adaptation efforts in both developing and developed nations. Public
and private institutions influence the distribution of such resources as well as the development of policies, legal instruments, and other measures
that facilitate adaptation. Therefore, institutional weaknesses, lack of coordinated governance, and conflicting objectives among different actors
can constrain adaptation. Cultural characteristics including age, gender, and sense of place influence risk perception, entitlements to resources,
and choices about adaptation. Societal actors and natural systems may experience multiple constraints that interact. {16.2, 16.3.2, 16.5; Tables
16-2, 16-3; Boxes 16-1, 16-3}
Limits to adaptation can emerge as a result of the interactions among climate change and biophysical and socioeconomic con-
straints (medium evidence, high agreement).
An adaptation limit occurs owing to the inability to avoid an intolerable risk to an actor’s
objectives and/or to the sustainability of a natural system. Understanding of limits is informed by historical and recent experience where limits
to adaptation have been observed, as well as by limits that are anticipated to arise as a consequence of future global change. Recent studies
have provided valuable insights regarding global “tipping points,“key vulnerabilities, or “planetary boundaries as well as evidence of climate
thresholds for agricultural crops, species of fish, forest and coral reef communities, and humans. However, for most regions and sectors, there is
a lack of empirical evidence to quantify magnitudes of climate change that would constitute a future adaptation limit. Furthermore, economic
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Adaptation Opportunities, Constraints, and Limits Chapter 16
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development, technology, and cultural norms and values can change over time to enhance or reduce the capacity of systems to avoid limits. As
a consequence, some limits may be considered “soft” in that they may be alleviated over time. Nevertheless, some limits may be “hard” in that
there are no reasonable prospects for avoiding intolerable risks. Recent literature suggests that incremental adaptation may not be sufficient to
avoid intolerable risks, and therefore transformational adaptation may be required to sustain some human and natural systems. {16.2-7; Table
16-3; Boxes 16-1, 16-4}
Greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation can reduce the rate and magnitude of future climate change and therefore the likelihood that
limits to adaptation will be exceeded (medium evidence, high agreement). Adaptation and GHG mitigation are complementary risk
management strategies. However, residual loss and damage will occur from climate change despite adaptation and mitigation action. Knowledge
about limits to adaptation can inform the level and timing of mitigation needed to avoid dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate
system. For example, the level of effort needed to adapt to a 4°C increase in global mean temperature would be significantly greater than that
needed to adapt to lower magnitudes of temperature increase. Mitigation can reduce the likelihood ofC of warming and therefore the likelihood
of exceeding limits to adaptation of natural and human systems. However, the empirical evidence needed to identify limits to adaptation of
specific sectors, regions, ecosystems, or species that can be avoided with different GHG mitigation pathways is lacking. {16.3.2.2, 16.6; Box 16-3}
The selection and implementation of specific adaptation options has ethical implications (very high confidence). Adaptation decision
making involves the reconciliation of legitimate differences about how adaptation resources are distributed and the values that adaptation
seeks to protect. For example, the costs and benefits of different adaptation options, such as insurance schemes or large-scale infrastructure
projects, may be inequitably distributed among different actors and stakeholders. Such inequities may generate ethical questions regarding
who is advantaged or disadvantaged by adaptation actions. In addition, awareness that climate change may exceed the capacity of actors to
adapt may have ethical implications for decisions regarding mitigation and climate targets as well as investments in GHG mitigation policies
and measures. National and international law as well as decision making at regional and local scales among both public and private actors will
influence distributive and procedural justice in adaptation planning and implementation. {16.3.3.8, 16.6-7; Table 16-4; Box 16-4}
Successful adaptation requires not only identifying adaptation options and assessing their costs and benefits, but also exploiting
available mechanisms for expanding the adaptive capacity of human and natural systems (medium evidence, high agreement).
Since the AR4, a growing body of literature provides guidance on how enabling conditions for adaptation can be developed and how constraints
can be reduced. Continued development of this knowledge through research and practice could accelerate more widespread and successful
adaptation outcomes. However, seizing opportunities, overcoming constraints, and avoiding limits can involve complex governance challenges
and may necessitate new institutions and institutional arrangements to effectively address multi-actor, multiscale risks. {16.2-3, 16.5, 16.8;
Table 16-1; Box CC-EA}
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Chapter 16 Adaptation Opportunities, Constraints, and Limits
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16.1. Introduction and Context
Since the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), demand for knowledge
regarding the planning and implementation of adaptation as a strategy
f
or climate risk management has increased significantly (Preston et al.,
2011a; Park et al., 2012). This chapter assesses recent literature on the
opportunities that create enabling conditions for adaptation as well as
the ancillary benefits that may arise from adaptive responses. It also
assesses the literature on biophysical and socioeconomic constraints
on adaptation and the potential for such constraints to pose limits to
adaptation. Given the available evidence of observed and anticipated
limits to adaptation, the chapter also discusses the ethical implications
of adaptation limits and the literature on system transformational
adaptation as a response to adaptation limits.
To facilitate this assessment, this chapter provides an explicit framework
for conceptualizing opportunities, constraints, and limits (Section 16.2).
In this framework, the core concepts including definitions of adaptation,
vulnerability, and adaptive capacity are consistent with those used
previously in the AR4 (Adger et al., 2007). However, the material in this
chapter should be considered in conjunction with that of complementary
WGII AR5 chapters. These include Chapter 14 (Adaptation Needs and
Options), Chapter 15 (Adaptation Planning and Implementation), and
Chapter 17 (Economics of Adaptation). Material from other WGII AR5
chapters is also relevant to informing adaptation opportunities, constraints,
and limits, particularly Chapter 2 (Foundations for Decision Making) and
Chapter 19 (Emergent Risks and Key Vulnerabilities). This chapter also
synthesizes relevant material from each of the sectoral and regional
chapters (Section 16.5).
To enhance its policy relevance, this chapter takes as its entry point the
perspective of actors as they consider adaptation response strategies
over near, medium, and longer terms (Eisenack and Stecker, 2012; Dow
et al., 2013a,b). Actors may be individuals, communities, organizations,
corporations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), governmental
agencies, or other entities responding to real or perceived climate-
related stresses or opportunities as they pursue their objectives (Patt
and Schröter, 2008; Blennow and Persson, 2009; Frank et al., 2011).
These actors may seek to navigate near-term constraints to implement
adaptation while simultaneously working to alleviate those constraints
to enable greater flexibility and adaptive capacity in the future.
Therefore, it is necessary to consider diverse time frames for possible
social, institutional, technological, and environmental changes. These
time frames also differ in the types of uncertainties that are relevant,
ranging from those of climate scenarios and models, possible system
thresholds, nonlinear responses or irreversible changes in social or
environmental systems, and the anticipated magnitude of impacts
associated with higher or lower levels of climate change (Meze-Hausken,
2008; Hallegatte, 2009; Briske et al., 2010).
To provide further background and context, this chapter proceeds by
revisiting relevant findings on adaptation opportunities, constraints, and
limits within the AR4 and the more recent IPCC Special Report on
Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate
Change Adaptation (SREX) (IPCC, 2012). The chapter then presents a
framework for adaptation, opportunities, and limits with an emphasis
on explicit definitions of these concepts to facilitate assessment. Key
c
omponents of this framework are assessed in subsequent chapters,
including the synthesis of how these components are treated among
the different sectoral and regional chapters of the WGII AR5 report. The
chapter subsequently assesses relationships between mitigation and
adaptation opportunities, constraints, and limits as well as their ethical
implications. The chapter concludes with discussion of key pathways
forward for research and practice to seize opportunities, overcome
constraints, and avoid limits.
16.1.1. Summary of Relevant AR4 Findings
The AR4 Summary for Policymakers of Working Group II concluded that
there are “formidable environmental, economic, informational, social,
attitudinal and behavioural barriers to the implementation of adaptation
and that “availability of resources and building adaptive capacity are
particularly important” (IPCC, 2007a, p. 19). These findings were based
primarily on Chapter 17, Assessment of Adaptation Practices, Options,
Constraints and Capacity (Adger et al., 2007). The key conclusion from
Adger et al. (2007, p. 719), as relevant to this chapter, was as follows:
“There are substantial limits and barriers to adaptation (very high
confidence). The authors go on to discuss biophysical and technological
limits to adaptation as well as barriers arising from technological,
financial, cognitive and behavioral, and social and cultural factors. The
authors also noted both significant knowledge gaps and impediments
to the sharing of relevant information to alleviate those gaps.
These findings were further evidenced by the sectoral, and particularly
regional, chapters of the WGII AR4 report. For example, the chapters
assessing impacts and adaptation in Africa, Asia, and Latin America
collectively emphasized the significant constraints on adaptation in
developing nations. Meanwhile, the chapter on Small Islands by Mimura
et al. (2007) identified several constraints to adaptation including
limited natural resources and relative isolation. Finally, in the chapter
on Polar Regions, Anisimov et al. (2007) noted that indigenous groups
have developed resilience through sharing resources in kinship networks
that link hunters with office workers, and even in the cash sector of
the economy. However, they concluded that such responses may be
constrained by social, cultural, economic, and political factors. For all of
these regions, adaptation constraints are linked to governance systems
and the quality of national institutions as well as limited scientific
capacity and ongoing development challenges (e.g., poverty, literacy,
and civil and political rights).
The AR4 also provided evidence that constraints on adaptation are not
limited to the developing world. For example, Hennessy et al. (2007)
reported that while adaptive capacity in Australia and New Zealand has
strengthened over time, a number of constraints remain including
access to tools and methods for impact assessment as well as appraisal
and evaluation of adaptation options. They also note weak linkages
among the various strata of government regarding adaptation policy
and skepticism among some populations toward climate change science.
For North America, Field et al. (2007) identify a range of social and cultural
barriers, informational and technological barriers, and financial and
market barriers. The chapter on Europe mentions the limits faced by
species and ecosystems due to lack of migration space, low soil fertility,
and human alterations of the landscape (Alcamo et al., 2007).
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Adaptation Opportunities, Constraints, and Limits Chapter 16
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S
everal other AR4 chapters assessed literature relevant to this chapter.
Chapter 18, Inter-Relationships between Adaptation and Mitigation (Klein
et al., 2007), discussed the possible effect of mitigation on adaptation
(an issue also considered by WGIII AR4, in particular by Fisher et al.
(2007) and Sathaye et al. (2007)). Finally, Chapter 19, Assessing Key
Vulnerabilities and the Risk from Climate Change (Schneider et al.,
2007), outlined how the presence of adaptation constraints and limits
is a contributing factor to vulnerability. Chapters that address similar
themes also appear in the AR5, and cross-references are provided in
this chapter to this more recent material.
16.1.2. Summary of Relevant SREX Findings
The IPCC Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and
Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) assesses a
broad array of literature on climate change, extreme events, adaptation,
and disaster risk reduction. A central framing concept for the SREX was
the assertion that (Lavell et al., 2012, p. 37), “ . .while there is a long-
standing awareness of the role of development policy and practice in
shaping disaster risk, advances in the reduction of the underlying causes
the social, political, economic, and environmental drivers of disaster
risk – remain insufficient to reduce hazard, exposure, and vulnerability
in many regions (UNISDR, 2009, 2011) (high confidence).”
This summary of relevant SREX material focuses on how the key findings
of the SREX provide insights relevant to the treatment of opportunities,
constraints, and limits in this chapter.
With respect to opportunities, the linkages between development and
disaster risk reduction provide a number of avenues for enhancing
societal resilience to natural disasters and climate change. For example,
the SREX highlights the benefits of considering disaster risk in national
development planning if strategies to adapt to climate change are
adopted (Lal et al., 2012). The observed dependence of disasters on
underlying patterns of development is indicative of the opportunities
for increasing societal resilience through sustainable development. In
addition, incorporating adaptation into multi-hazard risk management
may be an effective strategy for the efficient integrated management
of natural hazards and future climate risk (O’Brien et al., 2012).
The SREX report also discussed the constraints associated with enhancing
disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation. In particular, ongoing
development deficits as well as inequality in coping and adaptive
capacities pose fundamental constraints (Cardona et al., 2012). The
SREX noted that national systems and institutions are critical for
generating the capacity needed to manage the risks associated with
climate variability and change (Lal et al., 2012). Yet capacity at one level
of governance does not necessarily convey capacity to other levels
(Burton et al., 2012). Even in the presence of robust institutions, rates
of socioeconomic and climate change can interact to constrain adaptation.
For example, O’Brien et al. (2012) note that rapid socioeconomic
development in vulnerable urban areas can increase societal exposure
to natural hazards while simultaneously constraining the capacity of
actors to implement policies and measures to reduce vulnerability.
Overcoming these constraints to achieve development objectives is
constrained by a paucity of disaster data at the local level as well as
p
ersistent uncertainties regarding the manifestation of extreme events
in future decades (Cutter et al., 2012; Seneviratne et al., 2012).
The SREX report cautioned that natural hazards, climate change, and
societal vulnerability can pose fundamental limits to sustainable
development. Such limits can arise from the exceedance of natural
and/or societal thresholds or tipping points (Lal et al., 2012; O’Brien et
al., 2012; Seneviratne et al., 2012). Accordingly, the SREX concludes that
adaptation options should include not only incremental adjustments to
climate variability and climate change, but also transformational
changes that alter the fundamental attributes of systems. Though
challenging to implement, such transformation may be aided by actors
questioning prevailing assumptions, paradigms, and management
objectives toward the development of new ways of managing risk and
identifying opportunities (O’Brien et al., 2012).
16.2. A Risk-Based Framework for
Assessing Adaptation Opportunities,
Constraints, and Limits
Risk is an intrinsic element of any understanding of dangerous
anthropogenic interference with the climate system (UNFCCC, 1992)
and associated assumptions about the capacity of human and natural
systems to adapt to climatic change. The United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) refers specifically to adaptation
of ecosystems, threats to food production, and sustainable economic
development. While there is evidence of opportunities in natural and
human systems to adapt to climate changes, there is also evidence that
the potential to adapt is constrained, or more difficult, in some situations,
and faces limits in others (very high confidence; e.g., Adger et al., 2009;
Dow et al., 2013a,b; see also Sections 16.3-5).
This chapter applies a risk-based framework and a set of linked definitions
to the assessment of adaptation opportunities, constraints, and limits.
This approach is consistent with other risk management approaches to
guiding adaptation responses to climate change (IPCC, 2012; see also
Sections 1.3.4, 2.1.2, 14.4, 15.3). The adaptation literature ascribes a
number of different meanings to the terms opportunities, constraints,
and limits, which may have added confusion to an important scientific
and policy debate. The AR4, for example, provided a specific definition
of adaptation limits, but used the terms barriers and constraints
interchangeably to describe general impediments to adaptation (Adger et
al., 2007). Similar ambiguities are apparent within the rapidly expanding
literature focused on adaptation constraints (Biesbroek et al., 2013a).
The framework and definitions employed here draw on a number of
literatures (Dow et al., 2013a,b), in particular vulnerability assessment
(Füssel, 2006; Füssel and Klein, 2006) and risk assessment (Jones, 2001;
Klinke and Renn, 2002; Renn, 2008; National Research Council, 2010)
as well as climate adaptation (Hulme et al., 2007; Adger et al., 2009;
Hall et al., 2012). Moving from such general definitions to applications
requires specifying who or what is adapting, what they are adapting
to, and the process of adaptation (Smit et al., 1999). Hence, this chapter
explores adaptation opportunities, constraints, and limits from the context
of social actors, which includes individuals, businesses, government
agencies, or informal social groups.
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Chapter 16 Adaptation Opportunities, Constraints, and Limits
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An explicit focus on risk is particularly useful to understanding climate
adaptation (Jones and Preston, 2011; Dow et al., 2012b). Adaptation is
intended to reduce the risk to assets or systems of value (Adger et al.,
2012b). The concept of risk integrates the dimensions of probability and
uncertainty with the material and normative dimensions that shape
societal responses to threats (Renn, 2008). Figure 16-1 relates judgments
about risk and the ability to maintain risks at a tolerable level to the
concept of adaptation and adaptation opportunities, constraints, and
limits (Box 16-1). Drawing on the work of Klinke and Renn (2002),
actors evaluate risks based on one of three categories: acceptable,
tolerable, and intolerable. Acceptable risks are those deemed so low that
additional efforts at risk reduction, in this case climate adaptation efforts,
are not justified. Tolerable risks relate to situations where adaptive risk
management efforts are required and effective for risks to be kept
within reasonable levels. The scope of risks that fall within the tolerable
area is influenced by adaptation opportunities and constraints.
Therefore, the categorization of risks varies across spatial, jurisdictional,
and temporal. As discussed later in this chapter, opportunities and
constraints may be physical, technological, economic, institutional, legal,
cultural, or environmental in nature (Sections 16.3, 16.5-7). Constraints
may limit the range of available adaptation options creating the potential
for residual damages for actors, species, or ecosystems associated with
specific regions or sectors. Under some circumstances, the risk of residual
damage may be viewed as an acceptable or tolerable trade-off (Stern
et al., 2006; de Bruin et al., 2009a).
Intolerable risks may be related to threats to core social objectives
associated with health, welfare, security, or sustainability (Klinke and
Renn, 2002; Renn, 2008; Dow et al., 2013a,b). Risks become intolerable
when practicable or affordable adaptation options to avoid escalating
risks to such valued objectives or biophysical needs become unavailable.
Therefore, a limit is a point when an intolerable risk must be accepted;
the objective itself must be relinquished; or some adaptive transformation
must take place to avoid intolerable risk. Such a discontinuity may take
several forms such as individual’s decision to relocate, an insurance
company’s decision to withdraw coverage, or a species’ extinction. The
alternative to such discontinuities is an escalating and unmediated risk
of losses (Moser and Ekstrom, 2010; see also Section 16.4.2). While
individuals have their own perspectives about what are acceptable,
tolerable, or intolerable risks, collective judgments about risk are also
codified through mechanisms such as engineering design standards, air
and water quality standards, and legislation that establishes goals for
regulatory action. There are also international agreements that establish
norms and rights relevant to climate change risks (Knox, 2009; OHCHR,
2009; Crowley, 2011), such as the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Further,
these high level responses often shape the constraints and opportunities
to adaptation and responses to risk at lower levels through the distribution
Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ 16.1 | What is the difference between an adaptation barrier,
constraint, obstacle, and limit?
An adaptation constraint represents a factor or process that makes adaptation planning and implementation more
difficult. This could include reductions in the range of adaptation options that can be implemented, increases in
the costs of implementation, or reduced efficacy of selected options with respect to achieving adaptation objectives.
In this context, a constraint is synonymous with the terms adaptation barrier or obstacle that also appear in the
adaptation literature. However, the existence of a constraint alone does not mean that adaptation is not possible
or that one’s objectives cannot be achieved. In contrast, an adaptation limit is more restrictive in that it means
there are no adaptation options that can be implemented over a given time horizon to achieve one or more
management objectives, maintain values, or sustain natural systems. This implies that certain objectives, practices,
or livelihoods as well as natural systems may not be sustainable in a changing climate, resulting in deliberate or
involuntary system transformations.
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Intensity of adverse impact
Catastrophic Negligible
Very frequentVery rare
Acceptable
risks
Tolerable risks
Intolerable
risks
Frequency of adverse impact
Figure 16-1 | Conceptual model of the determinants of acceptable, tolerable, and
intolerable risks and their implications for limits to adaptation (Dow et al., 2013b,
based on Klinke and Renn, 2002; see also Renn and Klinke, 2013). In this conceptual
diagram, adaptation efforts are seen as keeping risks to objectives within the tolerable
risk space. Opportunities and constraints influence the capacity of actors to maintain
risks within a tolerable range. The dotted lines indicate that individual or collective
views on risk tolerance with respect to the frequency and intensity of climate-related
risks are not fixed, but may vary and change over time. In addition, the shape or angle
of the lines and the relative area in each section of the diagram are illustrative and
may themselves change as capacities and attitudes change. The shaded areas
represent the potential differences in perspective among actors.
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Adaptation Opportunities, Constraints, and Limits Chapter 16
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of resources, institutional design, and support of capacity development
(Sections 16.2-3, 16.4.1). If these risks and discontinuities have global-
scale consequences, they can be linked to “key vulnerabilities to climate
change (Section 19.6). Consistent with our framing of adaptation limits,
such key vulnerabilities would need to be assessed in terms of the limits
they imply for specific social actors, species, and ecosystems.
It is essential to evaluate opportunities, constraints, and limits with respect
to both the rate and magnitude of climate change and the relevant time
horizon for an actor, a species, or an ecosystem. Opportunities, constraints,
and limits to adaptation develop along a dynamic continuum (i.e., the
dotted lines in Figure 16-1 can shift), together conditioning the capacity
of natural and human systems to adapt to climate change. New
opportunities for adaptation may emerge through time; constraints may
be loosened; and some, although not all, limits that arise in the present
may eventually be shifted or removed altogether. For a given social
actor, the time horizon for adaptation decisions usefully bounds an
analysis of opportunities, constraints, and limits. For natural systems,
Box 16-1 | Definitions of Adaptation Opportunities, Constraints, and Limits
Adaptation Opportunities: Factors that make it easier to plan and implement adaptation actions, that expand adaptation options,
or that provide ancillary co-benefits. These factors enhance the ability of an actor(s) to secure their existing objectives, or for a natu-
ral system to retain productivity or functioning. For instance, increased public awareness and support for adaptation, availability of
additional resources from actors at other levels of governance to overcome constraints and soft limits, and interest in acquiring co-
benefits arising from adaptation strategies can all facilitate adaptation planning and implementation. Private sector efforts in research
and development that can improve affordability, flexibility, or ease of implementation could also create opportunities (Section 14.2.4).
Such adaptation opportunities, sometimes also referred to as adaptation enablers, are distinct from opportunities arising from climate
change (e.g., longer growing seasons), which are commonly referred to as potential benefits of climate change or adaptation options.
Adaptation Constraints: Factors that make it harder to plan and implement adaptation actions. Adaptation constraints restrict the
variety and effectiveness of options for actors to secure their existing objectives, or for a natural system to change in ways that
maintain productivity or functioning. These constraints commonly include lack of resources (e.g., funding, technology, or knowledge)
(Section 16.3.2), institutional characteristics that impede action (Section 16.3.2.8), or lack of connectivity and environmental quality
for ecosystems (Section 4.4). The terms “barriers” and “obstacles” are frequently used as synonyms. Constraints—alone or in
combination—can drive an actor or natural system to an adaptation limit.
Adaptation Limit: The point at which an actor’s objectives or system’s needs cannot be secured from intolerable risks through
adaptive actions (Adger et al., 2009; Moser and Ekstrom, 2010; Dow et al., 2013a,b; Islam et al., 2014).
Hard Adaptation Limit: No adaptive actions are possible to avoid intolerable risks.
Soft Adaptation Limit: Options are currently not available to avoid intolerable risks through adaptive action.
A limit to adaptation means that, for a particular actor, system, and planning horizon of interest, no adaptation options exist, or an
unacceptable measure of adaptive effort is required, to maintain societal objectives or the sustainability of a natural system. Objectives
include, for example, maintaining safety standards such as those codified in laws, regulations, or engineering design standards (e.g.,
1-in-500 year levees); security of air or water quality; as well as equity, cultural cohesion, and preservation of livelihoods. Requirements
for sustaining natural systems might include temperature ranges or moisture availability. In the case of hard limits, no adaptation
options are foreseeable, even when looking beyond the current planning horizon. For soft limits, however, adaptation options could
become available in the future owing to changing attitudes or values or as a result of innovation or other resources becoming available
to an actor. For example, 31 Native Alaskan villages are facing “imminent threats” due to coastal erosion and at least 12 of the 31
have begun to explore relocation or have decided to partially or totally relocate (US GAO, 2009). In the case of these communities
with minimum local revenue, the ability to relocate depends on the political and financial support of the U.S. federal government
(Huntingon et al., 2012). Therefore, limits are strongly influenced by relationships among public and private actors and institutions
across different spatial, temporal, and jurisdictional scales (Cash et al., 2006; see also Section 16.4.1).
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Chapter 16 Adaptation Opportunities, Constraints, and Limits
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t
he rate of species responses relative to changes in environmental
conditions is a limit to the capacity to adapt (Sections 4.3.2.5, 4.4,
16.3.2.3, 16.4.1). The observed rate of evolutionary and other species
responses ranges from rapid to inadequate to allow persistence
(Hoffmann and Sgro, 2011).
Because adaptation limits relate to adaptation resources and attitudes
to risk that may change over time, some limits may be viewed as “soft”
or time sensitive (Section 16.4.1). While a given adaptation option may
not be available today or require impracticable levels of effort, it may
become available through innovation or changes in attitudes in time.
Soft limits may be shifted by investments in research and development,
changes in regulatory rules or funding arrangements, or by changing
social or political attitudes (Park et al., 2012; Adger et al., 2013). Other
limits are “hard” or time insensitive in that there is no known process
to change them (Section 16.4.1). Examples of hard limits include water
supply in fossil aquifers, limits to retreat on islands, and loss of genetic
diversity.
16.3. Adaptation Opportunities and Constraints
Different actors, sectors, and geographic regions have differential capacities
to adapt to climate variability and change (very high confidence; Adger
et al., 2007; IPCC, 2012), although those capacities can be difficult to
measure (Tol et al., 2008; Hinkel, 2011). Since the AR4 (Adger et al., 2007),
the literature on the factors that contribute to adaptive capacity has
deepened (Adger et al., 2009; Moser and Ekstrom, 2010). This literature
has evolved along two different pathways. One focuses on the range
of opportunities that exist to facilitate adaptation planning and
implementation. The other, which is also more extensive, focuses on
describing the constraints that inhibit adaptation. Although they are
sometimes treated in the literature as distinct, opportunities and
constraints are complementary in that adaptive capacity is influenced
jointly by the extent to which actors take advantage of available
opportunities to pursue adaptation responses and the extent to which
those actors or natural, unmanaged systems experience constraints. In
a
ddition, factors that are identified as constraints may also reveal valuable
opportunities for adaptation interventions to build adaptive capacity.
While some level of generalization regarding opportunities and
constraints that are common to different regions, sectors, communities,
and actors is possible, the manner in which they manifest is context
dependent (very high confidence; Adger et al., 2007; Orlove, 2009;
Kasperson and Berberian, 2011; Weichselgartner and Breviere, 2011;
IPCC, 2012). For example, actors that frame adaptation as a process of
capacity building or sustainable development may pursue different
adaptation options with different opportunities and constraints compared
with those that frame adaptation as largely addressing climate change
impacts (McGray et al., 2007; Fünfgeld and McEvoy, 2011). Adaptation
researchers apply their own frameworks and heuristics that influence
understanding of adaptation processes (Biesbroek et al., 2013b; Preston
et al., 2013b). Therefore, one must be cautious in applying generic
assumptions regarding adaptation opportunities and constraints in
assessments of vulnerability and adaptive capacity or in the identification
of appropriate adaptation responses (Adger and Barnett, 2009; Barnett
and Campbell, 2009; Mortreux and Barnett, 2009). The recent adaptation
literature suggests significant work remains in understanding such
context-specific determinants of vulnerability and adaptive capacity and
in effectively using the knowledge gained from available case studies
to facilitate adaptation more broadly (Tol and Yohe, 2007; Klein, 2009;
Smith et al., 2010; Hinkel, 2011; Preston et al., 2011b; Biesbroek et al.,
2013a). Therefore, the discussion of opportunities and constraints here
should be considered in the context of the sectoral and regional
synthesis (Section 16.5) as well as the sector- and region-specific
material on constraints and opportunities in other WGII AR5 chapters.
16.3.1. Adaptation Opportunities
16.3.1.1. Enabling Conditions for Adaptation
Adaptation opportunities represent enabling factors that enhance the
potential for actors to plan and implement actions to achieve their
Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ 16.2 | What opportunities are available to facilitate adaptation?
Although an extensive literature now exists regarding factors that can constrain adaptation, there is very high
confidence that a broad range of opportunities exist for actors in different regions and sectors that can ease
adaptation planning and implementation. Generally, sustainable economic development is an overarching process
that can facilitate adaptation, and therefore represents a key opportunity to reduce adaptation constraints and
limits. More specifically, those actions or processes that enhance the awareness of adaptation actors and relevant
stakeholders and/or enhance their entitlements to resources can expand the range of adaptation options that can
be implemented and help overcome constraints. The development and application of tools to support assessment,
planning, and implementation can aid actors in weighing different options and their costs and benefits. Policies,
whether formal policies of government institutions, initiatives of informal actors, or corporate policies and standards,
can direct resources to adaptation and/or reduce vulnerability to current and future climate. Finally, the ability for
humans to learn from experience and to develop new practices and technologies through innovation can significantly
expand adaptive capacity in the future.
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Adaptation Opportunities, Constraints, and Limits Chapter 16
16
adaptation objective(s) or facilitate adaptive responses by natural systems
to climate risk (Box 16-1). Therefore, an opportunity is distinct from an
adaptation option, which is a specific means of achieving an adaptation
objective (such as an early warning system as a means of reducing
vulnerability to tropical cyclones) or a strategy for the conservation of
an ecological system (Section 14.3; Table 14-1). Adaptation opportunities
described here also do not consider the potential beneficial consequences
of climate change (Box 16-1), an issue addressed to varying degrees
among the various sectoral and regional chapters.
Opportunities for adaptation range from increasing awareness of
climate change, its consequences, and the potential costs and benefits
of adaptation options to the implementation of specific policies that
create conditions that are conducive to adaptation implementation. For
example, rice is a key food crop, particularly in Asia, in which 90% of rice
is produced and subsequently consumed (Timmer, 2010). Multiple studies
have identified rice as being particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate
change, including both temperature and water availability impacts
(Papademetriou et al., 2000). Therefore, planning and implementation
of adaptive responses will be an important component of managing
the risk of climate change to rice production (Howden et al., 2007;
Lobell et al., 2008; Tilman et al., 2011; Anwar et al., 2013). A range of
opportunities are available to support adaptation (Tables 16-1, 16-3)
(very high confidence). Hypothetically, these could include the use of
analysis tools to better understand vulnerabilities and thresholds in rice
and develop scenarios of future consequences. That information could then
be communicated to farmers, national governments, and international
agencies to increase awareness of potential risks. Policies can be used
to incentivize adaptation including investments in biotechnology
research to breed more resistant strains as well as field studies to identify
potential new regions that might be appropriate for rice cultivation in
the future.
Such opportunities exist for other agricultural commodities as well as
other sectors and regions at risk from climate change (Box 16-2). For
example, there is growing recognition of the potential for using disaster
response and recovery processes as a means of increasing resilience to
future extreme events (Lavell et al., 2012). Meanwhile, case studies of
Australian local governments as well as Inuit communities in the Arctic
have identified a range of opportunities for building adaptive capacity
and overcoming constraints (Smith et al., 2008; Ford, 2009; Ford et al.,
2010). These include risk assessment, partnerships, establishment of
monitoring and evaluation frameworks, developing finance mechanisms,
and formal adaptation policy development.
Sustainable economic development is a critical foundation for the
creation of adaptation opportunities (Sections 20.2, 20.6), because it
has the potential to build the capacity of individuals and organizations
to adapt (very high confidence). Sustainable development is associated
with increasing opportunities for research, training, and education as
Opportunity Examples References
Awareness
raising
P
ositive stakeholder engagement O’Neill and Chicholson-Cole (2009); Kahan (2010)
Communication of risk and uncertainty Berry et al. (2011); Pidgeon and FIschhoff (2011); Pidgeon (2012); Lieske et al. (2013)
P
articipatory research Pearce et al. (2009); McNamara and McNamara (2011); Sheppard et al. (2011); Duru et al. (2012); Faysse et al. (2012)
Capacity
building
Research, data, education, and training PCAST (2011); WMO (2011); Bangay and Blum (2012); Lemos et al. (2013)
E
xtensions services for agriculture Deressa et al. (2009); Fosu-Mensah et al. (2012)
Resource provision Ayers (2009); Ayers and Huq (2009); Grasso (2010); Klein (2010); Rübbelke (2011)
D
evelopment of human capital Bowen et al. (2012); Lemos et al. (2013)
D
evelopment of social capital Deressa et al. (2009); Adger et al. (2010); Engle and Lemos (2010); Huang et al. (2011)
Tools
Risk analysis van Aalst et al. (2008); Pidgeon and Butler (2009); Chin et al. (2010); Zhou et al. (2012); Wade et al. (2013)
V
ulnerability assessment Allison et al. (2009); Moreno and Becken (2009); Nelson et al. (2010b); Romieu et al. (2010); Koh (2011); Preston et al. (2011b)
Multi-criteria analysis de Bruin et al. (2009b); Garfi et al. (2011); Yang et al. (2012); Kyung-Soo et al. (2013)
C
ost / benefi t analysis Tol et al. (2008); Hallegatte (2009); Weitzman (2009); Mechler and Islam (2013)
Decision support systems Norman et al. (2010); Wenkel et al. (2013)
Early warning systems Lowe et al. (2011); Lenton (2013); Marvin et al. (2013)
Policy
I
ntegrated resource and infrastructure
planning
R
osenberg et al. (2010); Becker et al. (2012); Heeres et al. (2012)
S
patial planning Brown (2011); Wheeler (2012); Pinto et al. (2013)
Design / planning standards Hamin and Gurran (2009); Mailhot and Duchesn (2009); Kwok and Rajkovich (2010); Ren et al. (2011); Nassopoulos et al. (2012)
Learning
E
xperience with climate vulnerability and
disaster risk
F
iksel (2006); Crespo Cuaresma et al. (2008); Cutter et al. (2012)
Learning-by-doing Berkhout et al. (2006); Bulkeley and Castán Broto (2012); Roberts et al. (2012)
Monitoring and evaluation GIZ (2011a,b); Preston et al. (2011a); Adaptation Sub-Committee (2012)
Innovation
Technological change Hanjra and Qureshi (2010); Chhetri et al. (2012); Lybbert and Sumner (2012); Rodima-Taylor et al. (2012); Vermeulen et al. (2012)
Infrastructure effi ciencies Beard et al. (2009); Newton (2013)
Digital / mobile telecommunications Ospina and Heeks (2010a,b); Meera et al. (2012)
Table 16-1 | Identifi cation of key adaptation opportunities. Each type of opportunity is represented by multiple illustrative examples as well as supporting references.
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Chapter 16 Adaptation Opportunities, Constraints, and Limits
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well as for enhancing access to expertise and tools for assessment
activities and decision support. It also increases access to technologies
that can enhance efficiencies. For example, water use in the USA has
remained relatively constant since the mid-1980s, despite population
growth, increases in agricultural yields, and expansion of electricity
generation (Kenny et al., 2009). Improvements in technology and
management practice stimulated by innovation, education, and learning
have increased water use efficiency. This phenomenon may increase the
resilience of U.S. water resources to climate change. Yet, these advances
are a function of broader national and regional economic development
trends. Therefore, future development pathways may have a significant
influence on the opportunities for adaptation and therefore the adaptive
capacity of adaptation actors (Sections 16.3.2.10, 20.6; Box 16-3).
16.3.1.2. Ancillary Benefits of Adaptation
Some adaptation options may offer ancillary benefits (or co-benefits)
independent of their direct benefits with respect to reducing vulnerability
to climate change (very high confidence; Section 17.2.3). The potential
for ancillary benefits has two important implications for adaptation
planning and implementation. First, their consideration may result in a
more favorable assessment of the cost-effectiveness of a specific
adaptation option (Hallegatte, 2009). Second, consideration of the
ancillary benefits of adaptation may help in efficiently integrating
adaptation into existing management and decision-making processes
(Ahmed and Fajber, 2009; Dovers, 2010).
Such ancillary benefits may arise from adaptation responses in three
ways:
Stimulating adaptation to current climate variability: Although it is
generally assumed that physical, ecological, and social systems are
well adapted to current climatic conditions, this is frequently not
the case (Dugmore et al., 2009; Heyd and Brooks, 2009). Increased
awareness of the potential impacts of future climate change may,
in some instances, lead to the implementation of adaptation options
to reduce vulnerability or capitalize on opportunities (medium
evidence, high agreement; Section 16.3.2.1).These options may have
near-term ancillary benefits with respect to reducing vulnerability
to current climate variability and extreme weather events (Füssel,
2008; Hallegatte, 2009; Ford et al., 2010). On the other hand, future
reductions in vulnerability to climate change can be perceived as
Box 16-2 | A Case Study of Opportunities for Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction
Bangladesh has been identified as a region of South Asia that is particularly vulnerable to tropical cyclones (Ali, 1999; Mallick and
Rahman, 2013), and this vulnerability is projected to increase due to climate change (Karim and Mimura, 2008; Dasgupta et al.,
2010). The nation’s response to this vulnerability illustrates the manner in which multiple opportunities can converge to facilitate
adaptation and disaster risk reduction. The Cyclone Preparedness Program (CPP) was launched in the 1960s to establish a warning
system in coastal regions (Habib et al., 2012). The CPP has been continually improved in subsequent years with assistance from the
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Foundation (Mallick and Rahman, 2013). A
coastal reforestation program was also established in the 1960s to enhance natural buffers to storm surge (Mallick and Rahman,
2013; Box CC-EA). The Bangladesh Government initiated construction of cyclone shelters in the late 1980s, yet a cyclone in 1991
revealed that too few shelters were available (Bern et al., 1991; Chowdhury et al., 1993). This prompted collaboration between the
government of Bangladesh, the United Nations Development Programme, and the World Bank to launch the Multipurpose Cyclone
Shelter Program. That program characterized shelter needs along the coast and provided resources for their construction. In addition,
shelter construction, which was concentrated around primary and secondary schools, coincided with national legislation requiring
compulsory attendance in primary school, which required the construction of new schools. This created the opportunity for multi-
purpose construction of buildings, reflecting the potential ancillary benefits that can arise from integrated planning (Section
16.3.1.2).
More recently, Bangladesh has begun to focus on increasing the resilience of the built environment. This effort has focused on the
development of disaster-resilient habitat (Mallick and Rahman, 2007), where communities participate in the design and construction
of resilient housing with support from international donors (Mallick et al., 2008; Mallick and Rahman, 2013). This may be a more
cost-effective strategy for both reducing mortality and property damage (Mallick et al., 2008). The observed progress in reducing
vulnerability to tropical cyclones is a function of various opportunities (awareness, assessment, policies, innovation, and capacity
building) that have emerged over the past several decades that created conditions that enabled the implementation of specific policies,
projects, and programs. Nevertheless, the additional risk posed by future climate change may necessitate further future investments
(Dasgupta et al., 2010).
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a
ncillary benefits of near-term responses to current climate variability
and natural disasters (Ziervogel et al., 2010a,b). Hence, there may
be some ambiguity with respect to what actors perceive as the
primary versus ancillary benefit of a particular policy or measure.
Generation of climate adaptation goods and services: Adaptation
planning and implementation often may require additional knowledge
and investment of resources. Adaptation therefore represents a
potential economic opportunity for producers of goods and
services used to satisfy adaptation needs (limited evidence, medium
agreement; EBI, 2013). Such services range from vulnerability
assessment and risk analysis to the implementation of technology
and engineering solutions. The Stern Review indicated that the
market opportunities for new infrastructure and buildings resilient
to climate change in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development (OECD) countries could be quite significant (Stern et
al., 2006). For example, the market for snow machines will be
influenced by growing concerns about snow cover in more marginal
ski resorts (Scott et al., 2006). Higher elevation regions may see
new opportunities as a result of snow resort shifts (Bark et al.,
2010). Likewise, increased risks associated with track buckling
caused by higher summer temperatures may trigger innovation and
investment in new railway track and drainage systems (Bark et al.,
2010). Rising damage caused by climate change could provide new
markets for innovative insurance products and other risk-based
financial services (limited evidence, medium agreement; Botzen et
al., 2009, 2010). However, these ancillary benefits must be weighed
against the adverse impacts that create the market for such services.
Advancing sustainable development: As part of a larger portfolio of
policies and measures, adaptation can assist in addressing existing
development deficits while also meeting long-term sustainable
development objectives (very high confidence; Sections 20.2, 20.6).
For example, policy options related to management of water and
natural resources under a changing climate; the development of
water, transportation, and communication infrastructure; and the
promotion of credit and insurance services can promote economic
development, increase adaptive capacity, and reduce the impacts
of climate change on the poor (Hertel and Rosch, 2010). Therefore,
effective adaptation and climate risk management may be important
enablers of sustainable economic development.
16.3.2. Adaptation Constraints
As discussed in the AR4 (Adger et al., 2007), a number of factors constrain
planning and implementation of adaptation options (very high confidence).
More recent studies have documented an expanded range of constraints
in a diverse array of contexts, but Biesbroek et al. (2013a) note that there
is no consensus definition of constraints or a consistent framework for
their assessment. Although constraints are often discussed in the
literature as discrete determinants of adaptive capacity, they rarely act
in isolation (Dryden-Cripton et al., 2007; Smith et al., 2008; Moser and
Ekstrom, 2010; Shen et al., 2011). Rather actors are challenged to
navigate multiple, interacting constraints in order to achieve a given
adaptation objective (very high confidence; Adger et al., 2007, 2009;
Dryden-Cripton et al., 2007; Shen et al., 2008, 2011; Smith et al., 2008;
Jantarasami et al., 2010; Moser and Ekstrom, 2010; see also Section
16.3.2.10). Multiple constraints can significantly reduce the range of
a
daptation options and opportunities available to actors and therefore
may pose fundamental limits to adaptation (very high confidence; Section
16.4) and/or drive actors toward responses that may be maladaptive
(limited evidence, medium agreement; Barnett and O’Neill, 2010; Eriksen
et al., 2011).
1
6.3.2.1. Knowledge, Awareness, and Technology Constraints
The AR4 concluded that there are significant knowledge gaps and
impediments to flows of information that can constrain adaptation, but
knowledge in itself is not sufficient to drive adaptive responses (Adger
et al., 2007). These conclusions are echoed by more recent literature.
Adaptation practitioners and stakeholders in both developed (Tribbia
and Moser, 2008; Gardner et al., 2010; Jantarasami et al., 2010; Ford et
al., 2011; Milfont, 2012) and developing nations (Bryan et al., 2009;
Deressa et al., 2009; Begum and Pereira, 2013; Pasquini et al., 2013)
continue to identify knowledge deficits as an adaptation constraint (very
high confidence). Often this demand for more information is linked to
concerns regarding decision making under uncertainty about the future
(medium evidence, medium agreement; Tribbia and Moser, 2008; Moser,
2010a; Whitmarsh, 2011; Stoutenborough and Vedlitz, 2013). A broad
range of guidance on adaptation planning and implementation continues
to emerge as a means of empowering actors to pursue adaptation efforts
(Clar et al., 2013; EC, 2013; FAO, 2013; USCTI, 2013; Webb and Beh,
2013), and the World Meteorological Organization has emphasized the
importance of climate services for vulnerability and disaster risk reduction
(WMO, 2011).
A number of recent studies have investigated the extent to which
education and knowledge about climate change influences perceptions
of risk (Hamilton, 2011; McCright and Dunlap, 2011; Milfont, 2012). For
example, studies suggest overconfidence in the ability of actors to manage
risk (Wolf et al., 2010; Kuruppu and Liverman, 2011) or differences in
the perception of climate risk between actors and governing institutions
(Patt and Schröter, 2008a) can constrain adaptation (medium evidence,
medium agreement). Therefore, capacity building through education,
training, and information access represents a valuable opportunity for
adaptation (Section 16.3.1.1).
Nevertheless, numerous recent studies caution that addressing
knowledge deficits may not necessarily lead to adaptive responses
(very high confidence; Kellstedt et al., 2008; Tribbia and Moser, 2008;
Adger et al., 2009; Malka and Krosnick, 2009; Moser, 2010b; Preston et
al., 2011b; Kahan et al., 2012; Lemos et al., 2012). Research from the
USA indicates that those most informed about science and climate
change are not necessarily the most concerned about its potential
consequences (Kellstedt et al., 2008; Kahan et al., 2012), although these
findings run counter to research from New Zealand, where increased
knowledge translated into increased public concern and efficacy
(Milfont, 2012). Recent research also indicates that multiple factors
influence how knowledge is perceived including political affiliation
(Hamilton, 2011; McCright and Dunlap, 2011), educational attainment
(McCright and Dunlap, 2011), and the confidence placed on different
information sources (Sundblad et al., 2009). Various studies have
questioned a common assumption in the climate change literature that
improvements in climate information are needed to facilitate adaptation
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Chapter 16 Adaptation Opportunities, Constraints, and Limits
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(Dessai et al., 2009; Hulme et al., 2009; Wilby and Dessai, 2010; Verdon-
Kidd et al., 2012; see also Section 2.4). Similarly, multiple authors have
questioned the utility and robustness of vulnerability metrics and indices
for informing adaptation decision making (Barnett et al., 2009; Klein,
2009; Hinkel, 2011; Preston et al., 2011b).
Similar tensions arise with respect to the role of traditional knowledge
in adaptation. For example, cultural preferences regarding the value of
traditional versus more formal scientific forms of knowledge influence
what types of knowledge, and therefore adaptation options, are considered
legitimate (Jones and Boyd, 2011). In the Arctic, Inuit traditional knowledge
(Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, IQ) encompasses all aspects of traditional Inuit
culture including values, world-view, language, life skills, perceptions,
and expectations (Nunavut Social Development Council, 1999; Wenzel,
2004). IQ includes, for example, weather forecasting, sea ice safety,
navigation, and hunting and animal preparation skills that may have
value for managing climate risk. Yet, as noted in the AR4 and more
recent studies, these skills are declining among youth (medium evidence,
medium agreement; Adger et al., 2007; Pearce et al., 2011). Increasing
reliance on non-traditional forecasting (national weather office forecasts)
and other technologies (GPS) in Arctic communities is in part responsible
for increased risk taking when traveling on the land and sea ice (medium
evidence, medium agreement; Aporta and Higgs, 2005; Ford et al., 2006;
Pearce et al., 2011). Collectively, the recent literature suggests the
extent to which knowledge acts to constrain or enable adaptation is
dependent on how that knowledge is generated, shared, and used to
achieve desired adaptation objectives (very high confidence; Patt et al.,
2007; Nelson et al., 2008; Tribbia and Moser, 2008; Moser, 2010a,b).
Individual, institutional, and societal knowledge influences the capacity
to develop and use technologies to achieve adaptation objectives (very
high confidence; UNFCCC, 2006; Adger et al., 2007). The AR4 noted the
role of technology in contributing to spatial and temporal heterogeneity
in adaptive capacity and the potential for technology to constrain
Box 16-3 | Rates of Change as a Cross-Cutting Constraint
Future rates of global change will have a significant influence on the demand for, and costs of, adaptation (very high confidence).
Since the AR4, new research has confirmed the commitment of the Earth system to future warming (Lowe et al., 2009; Armour and
Roe, 2011; WGI AR5 Section 12.5) and elucidated a broad range of tipping points or “key vulnerabilities” that would result in significant
adverse consequences should they be exceeded (Lenton et al., 2008; Rockstrom et al., 2009; see also Chapter 19). While the specific
rate of climate change to which different ecological communities or individual species can adapt remains uncertain (Sections
16.3.2.3, 16.4.1), more rapid rates of change can constrain adaptation of natural systems (Hoegh-Guldberg, 2008; Gilman et al.,
2008; Maynard et al., 2008; CCSP, 2009; Hallegatte, 2009; Malhi et al., 2009a,b; Thackeray et al., 2010; Lemieux et al., 2011;
Fankhauser and Soare, 2013; see also Sections 4.3.2.5, 5.5.6), particularly in the presence of other environmental pressures (very high
confidence; Brook et al., 2008). Literature suggests that the near-term economic costs of societal adaptation may be substantial, and
those costs increase incrementally over time as the climate changes (Section 17.4.4). Therefore, higher rates or magnitudes of climate
change may reduce the effectiveness of some adaptation options, and higher costs for adaptation may be incurred (New et al., 2011;
Stafford Smith et al., 2011; Peters et al., 2013; see also Section 16.6). However, more rapid rates of change may also create greater
incentives for adaptation, resulting in a faster pace of implementation (Travis and Huisenga, 2013).
Although rapid socioeconomic change, including economic development and technological innovation and diffusion, can enhance
adaptive capacity (Section 16.3.1), it can also pose constraints (very high confidence; Section 20.3.2). Globally, economic losses from
climate extremes are doubling approximately every 1 to 2 decades owing to increasing economic exposure (Pielke Jr. et al., 2008;
Baldassarre et al., 2010; Bouwer, 2011; Gall et al., 2011; Munich Re, 2011; IPCC, 2012; Preston, 2013). Such losses are associated
with high interannual variability (Preston, 2013), but current trends are projected to continue in future decades (Pielke Jr., 2007;
Montgomery, 2008; O'Neill et al., 2010; UN DESA Population Division, 2011; Preston, 2013; see also Section 10.7.3), although losses
may decline relative to growth in gross domestic product (GDP; IPCC, 2012). In addition, population growth and economic development
can lead to greater resource consumption and ecological degradation (Alberti, 2010; Chen et al., 2010; Raudsepp-Hearne et al., 2010;
Liu et al., 2012), which can constrain adaptation in regions where livelihoods are closely linked to ecosystem goods and services (very
high confidence; Badjeck et al., 2010; Marshall, 2010; Warner et al., 2010; see also Section 16.3.2.3 and Box CC-EA). The adaptation
literature also suggests that successful adaptation will be dependent in part on the rate at which institutions can learn to adjust to
the challenges and risks posed by climate change and implement effective responses (very high confidence; Adger et al., 2009; Moser
and Ekstrom, 2010; Stafford Smith et al., 2011).
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a
daptation or create opportunities (Adger et al., 2007). Key considerations
with respect to technology as an adaptation constraint include (1)
availability; (2) access (including the capacity to finance, operate, and
maintain); (3) acceptability to users and affected stakeholders; and (4)
effectiveness in managing climate risk (Adger et al., 2007; Dryden-Cripton
et al., 2007; van Aalst et al., 2008; see also Sections 9.4.4, 11.7, 14.2.4,
15.4.3). Although technology has implications for regional adaptive
capacity (e.g., Sections 22.4.5.7, 27.3.6.2, 29.6.2), in-depth exploration
of technology in the adaptation literature is often associated with specific
sectors (Howden et al., 2007; Bates et al., 2008; van Koningsveld et al.,
2008; EPA, 2009; Parry et al., 2009; Zhu et al., 2010). For example, Howden
et al. (2007) note the importance of technology options for facilitating
adaptation including applications of existing management strategies
as well as introduction of innovative solutions such as bio- and
nanotechnology (see also Hillie and Hlophe, 2007; Bates et al., 2008;
Fleischer et al., 2011). Several studies from Africa have explored how
different factors drive awareness, uptake, and use of adaptation
technologies for agriculture (Nhemachena and Hassan, 2007; Hassan and
Nhemachena, 2008; Deressa et al., 2009, 2011). While such literature
identifies specific adaptation technology options, and in some cases the
costs associated with their implementation, quantitative understanding of
the extent to which improving technology will enhance adaptive capacity
or reduce climate change impacts remains limited (Piao et al., 2010).
16.3.2.2. Physical Constraints
The capacity of human and natural systems to adapt to a changing climate
is linked to characteristics of the physical environment including the climate
itself. Recent studies have suggested that the effort required to adapt
to an increase in global mean temperature of C by 2100 may be
significantly greater than adapting to lower magnitudes of change (very
high confidence; Fung et al., 2011; Gemenne, 2011; New et al., 2011;
Nicholls et al., 2011; Stafford Smith et al., 2011; Thornton et al., 2011;
Zelazowski et al., 2011; see also Section 19.5.1). This challenge arises
from the magnitude of climate change, as well as the rate (Box 16-3).
A variety of non-climatic physical factors also can constrain adaptation
efforts of natural systems (very high confidence). For example, migration
can be constrained by geographical features such as lack of sufficient
altitude to migrate vertically or barriers posed by coastlines or rivers
(Clark et al., 2011). Alternatively, Lafleur et al. (2010) identify soil
conditions as a factor that may influence the migration of North American
forests in response to climate change. Such physical barriers to migration
can also arise from human activities. Feeley and Silman (2010) note that
anthropogenic land use change can constrain the migration of Andean
plant species to higher altitudes. Meanwhile, Titus et al. (2009) analyze
state and local land use plans along the U.S. Atlantic coast and conclude
that approximately 60% of coastal land below 1meter in elevation is
anticipated to be developed in the future, posing a physical barrier to
inland migration of wetlands (see also Bulleri and Chapman, 2010;
Jackson and McIlvenny, 2011). Collectively, such physical constraints
can reduce available migration corridors and the distances over which
migration is a feasible adaptive response.
Physical constraints have important implications for human adaptation
as well (medium evidence, high agreement). For example, the distribution
a
nd abundance of water is a feature of the physical environment that
is influenced by climate. Human consumption of freshwater increasingly
is approaching the sustainable yield of surface and groundwater systems
in a number of global regions (Shah, 2009; Pfister et al., 2009, 2011a,b;
see also Sections 3.3.2, 3.5). Water-dependent enterprises in such regions
may therefore have reduced flexibility to cope with transient or long-
term reductions in water supply. This in turn influences the portfolio of
adaptation actions that can be implemented effectively to manage risk
to water security and, subsequently, agriculture and food security (Hanjra
and Qureshi, 2010) as well as energy security (Voinov and Cardwell,
2009; Dale et al., 2011). Similarly, water quality and soil quality can
constrain agricultural activities and therefore the capacity of agricultural
systems to adapt to a changing climate (Delgado et al., 2011; Kato et
al., 2011; Lobell et al., 2011; Olesen et al., 2011).
It is important to note, however, that these physical characteristics of the
environment are often amenable to management (very high confidence).
The AR4 presented case studies where adaptive capacity was linked to
the ability of human populations or communities to access physical capital
(Adger et al., 2007), such as machinery or infrastructure, to manage the
environment and associated risks. Similar findings have appeared in
more recent studies (Paavola, 2008; Thornton et al., 2008; Iwasaki et al.,
2009; Badjeck et al., 2010; Nelson et al., 2010a,b). Human modification
of the physical environment is particularly apparent in urban areas,
where the location and design of buildings and infrastructure influence
vulnerability to climate variability and change (Section 8.2.2.2). However,
past decisions regarding the built environment and its need for continual
maintenance can constrain future adaptation options and/or their costs
of implementation (Section 16.3.2.10).
16.3.2.3. Biological Constraints
Since the AR4, the literature on biological (including behavioral,
physiological, and genetic) tolerances of individuals, populations, and
communities to climate change and extremes has continued to expand
(Sections 4.4, 5.5.6, 6.2). This has resulted in a significant increase in
the number of studies describing mechanisms by which biological factors
can constrain the adaptation options for humans, nonhuman species, and
ecological systems more broadly. In particular, biological characteristics
influence the capacity of organisms to cope with increasing climate
stress in situ through acclimation, adaptation, or behavior (Jensen et
al., 2008; Somero, 2010; Tomanek, 2010; Aitken et al., 2011; Donelson
et al., 2011; Gale et al., 2011; Sorte et al., 2011) as well as the rate at
which organisms can migrate to occupy suitable bioclimatic regions
(very high confidence; Morin and Thuiller, 2009; Hill et al., 2011; Feeley
et al., 2012). Studies of humans also find age and geographic variation
among populations with respect to perceptions of thermal comfort in
indoor and outdoor space, which in turn influences the use of technologies
(e.g., air conditioning, vegetation) and behavior to adjust to the thermal
environment (Indraganti, 2010; Chen and Chang, 2012; Yang et al.,
2012; Fuller and Bulkeley, 2013; Müller et al., 2013).
The biological capacity for migration among nonhuman species is linked
to characteristics such as fecundity, phenotypic and genotypic variation,
dispersal rates, and interspecific interactions (Aitken et al., 2008; Engler
et al., 2009; Hellmann et al., 2012). For example, Aitken et al. (2008)
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16
a
rgue that migration rates of tree species necessary to track a changing
climate are higher than what has been observed since the last glaciation.
However, Kremer et al. (2012) note that long-distance gene flow of tree
species can span distances in one generation that are greater than habitat
shifts predicted under climate change. Additional research is needed to
clarify the capacity of species and communities to migrate in response
to a changing climate.
The degradation of environmental quality is another source of constraints
(very high confidence; Côté and Darling, 2010), with multiple studies
including natural capital as a foundation for sustainable livelihoods
(Paavola, 2008; Thornton et al., 2008; Iwasaki et al., 2009; Badjeck et
al., 2010; Nelson et al., 2010a,b). Non-climatic stresses to ecological
systems can reduce their resilience to climate change as evidenced by
studies on coral reefs and marine ecosystems, tropical forests, and
coastal wetlands (very high confidence; Diaz and Rosenberg, 2008;
Kapos and Miles, 2008; Malhi et al., 2009a,b; Afreen et al., 2011; see
also Section 4.2.4 and Box CC-CR). For example, several studies have
noted interactions between anthropogenic land use change and species
migration rates on the risk of extirpation (Feeley et al., 2010; Yates et
al., 2010; Cabral et al., 2013; Svenning and Sandel, 2013).
Ecological degradation also reduces the availability of ecosystem goods
and services for human populations (very high confidence; Nkem et al.,
2010; Tobey et al., 2010; see also Sections 4.4.3, 6.4.1). For example,
degradation of coastal wetlands and coral reef systems may reduce their
capacity to buffer coastal systems from the effects of tropical cyclones
(Das and Vincent, 2009; Tobey et al., 2010; Gedan et al., 2011; Keryn et
al., 2011; Box CC-EA). Similarly, soil degradation and desertification can
reduce crop yields and the resilience of agricultural and pastoral
livelihoods to climate stress (Iglesias et al., 2011; Lal, 2011).
Ecosystem constraints can also arise from non-native species, including
pests and disease, that compete with endemic species (Hellman et al.,
2008; Dukes et al., 2009; Moser et al., 2011; Ziska et al., 2011; Pautasso
et al., 2012; Svobodová et al., 2013; see also Section 4.2.4.6). Climate
change could reduce the effectiveness of current control mechanisms for
invasive species (very low confidence; Hellmann et al., 2008). However,
studies also indicate that uncertainty associated with predictions of future
pests, disease, and invasive species remains high (Dukes et al., 2009).
16.3.2.4. Economic Constraints
The AR4 concluded that adaptive capacity is influenced by the entitlements
of actors to economic resources and by larger macro-level driving forces
such as economic development and trends in globalization (Adger et al.,
2007). More recent literature continues to identify economic constraints
associated with adaptation. However, such constraints often involve the
financing of discrete adaptation options (e.g., Matasci et al., 2013; Islam
et al., 2014). This chapter draws a distinction between such financial
constraints (Section 16.3.2.5) and economic constraints, which are
associated with broader macroeconomic considerations.
Long-term trends in economic development as well as short-term
dynamics in economic systems can have a significant influence on the
capacity of actors to adapt to climate change (very high confidence;
S
ection 16.3.1.1). Multiple authors, for example, discuss the concept of
“double exposure” where actors are subjected to stresses associated with
climate change as well as those associated with economic disruptions
such as the recent global financial crisis or other stresses (Leichenko et
al., 2010; Silva et al., 2010; Leichenko, 2012; Jeffers, 2013; McKune and
Silva, 2013). Similarly, Kiem and Austin (2013) argue that prevailing
economic conditions have an important influence on the capacity of
Australian farmers to cope with drought.
The implications of economic constraints vary among different sectors
that have differential vulnerability to climate change. Economies that
are disproportionately composed of climate-sensitive sectors such as
agriculture, forestry, and fisheries may be particularly vulnerable to the
effects of climate change and may encounter greater constraints on
their capacity to adapt (very high confidence). Such economies occur
disproportionately in the developing world (Thornton et al., 2008; Allison
et al., 2009; Feng et al., 2010; Füssel, 2010), although multiple studies
have explored climate-sensitive regional economies in developed nations
as well (Edwards et al., 2009; Leichenko et al., 2010; Aaheim et al., 2012;
Kiem and Austin, 2013). Poverty and development deficits that are
linked to economic conditions also exist in urban areas (Sections 8.1.3,
8.3.2.1).
While economic development and diversification are generally seen as
factors that can ameliorate resource deficits (Sections 20.2.1.2, 20.3.2),
certain economic enterprises can constrain adaptation. For example, the
AR4 noted that activities such as shrimp farming and conversion of coastal
mangroves, though profitable in an economic sense, can exacerbate
vulnerability to sea level rise (Agrawala et al., 2005; Adger et al., 2007).
More recent studies have demonstrated that economic development
and urbanization of hazardous landscapes may increase human exposure
to extreme weather events and climate change, resulting in greater
economic losses and risks to public health and safety (Baldassare et al.,
2010; IPCC, 2012; Preston, 2013). Economic development also can put
pressure on natural resources and ecosystems that can constrain their
capacity to adapt (Titus et al., 2009; Sydneysmith et al., 2010; see also
Sections 16.3.2.3, 20.3.2). The extent to which economic development
creates opportunities or constrains adaptation is dependent on the
development pathway (Section 20.6). Low resource-intensive economic
growth can enhance adaptive capacity while minimizing externalities
of development that can increase vulnerability of human and natural
systems (Section 20.6).
16.3.2.5. Financial Constraints
In addition to broader macroeconomic constraints on adaptation (Section
16.3.2.4), the implementation of specific adaptation strategies and options
can be constrained by access to financial capital (very high confidence).
Financial capital can manifest in a variety of forms including credit,
insurance, and tax revenues, as well as earnings of individual households
or private entities. The AR4 concluded that the global costs of adaptation
could be quite substantial over the next several decades (Adger et al.,
2007). More recent studies suggest costs on the order of US$75 to
US$100 billion per year by 2050 (Section 17.4; Table 17-2). In the context
of the UNFCCC, mechanisms have been established to help meet these
costs. The Least Developed Country Fund was established to assist
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Adaptation Opportunities, Constraints, and Limits Chapter 16
16
d
eveloping nations in generating National Adaptation Plans of Action
(Sections 14.4.4, 15.2.3). The Adaptation Fund was established within
the context of the UNFCCC to finance adaptation in developing nations
through the sale of certified emissions reductions (CERs) credits under the
Clean Development Mechanism (Sections 14.3.2, 15.2.2.1). Nevertheless,
declines in CER credit prices since early 2011 have reduced the flow of
revenue to the Adaptation Fund (Adaptation Fund Board, 2013), and
the demand for adaptation finance in general is larger than the current
availability of resources represented through these funds (Bouwer and
Aerts, 2006; Flåm and Skjærseth, 2009; Hof et al., 2009). Furthermore,
developing a framework for the equitable and effective allocation of
adaptation funds to developing nations is a non-trivial challenge (Smith
et al., 2009a; Barr et al., 2010).
Overseas development assistance (ODA) represents another mechanism
for channeling financial capital into adaptation programs and projects.
However, multiple authors have identified potential constraints associated
with the use of ODA for financing adaptation, including concerns among
donors for the effectiveness of ODA (Kalirajan et al., 2011), lack of
incentives among donors to allocate ODA to adaptation (Buob and
Stephan, 2013), and potential for allocation of ODA to adaptation to
reduce the availability of funds for achieving development goals (Ayers
and Huq, 2009).
The potential for finance to constrain adaptation also emerges from a
broad range of recent case studies exploring adaptive capacity in
different sector and regional contexts, although finance is often identified
as just one of a broad range of resource constraints (Paavola, 2008;
Jantarasami et al., 2010; Moser and Ekstrom, 2010; Osbahr et al., 2010;
Biesbroek et al., 2013a). Investigations of farming communities in Africa
have identified finance as a key determinant of vulnerability and adaptive
capacity of farmers to climate variability and change (Nhemachena and
Hassan, 2007; Hassan and Nhemachena, 2008; Deressa et al., 2009,
2011). Islam et al. (2014) cite access to credit as a key constraint on
adaptation among fishing communities in Bangladesh, and financial
constraints have also been documented in municipal governments in
South Africa (Pasquini et al., 2013). Huntington et al. (2012) question
whether relocating the 184 Alaskan Native villages threatened by
coastal erosion and inundation is politically feasible given the high
costs, estimated at up to US$1 million per person or US$100 million per
village on average.
Institutions in developed nations face constraints in funding adaptation
options despite their comparatively high adaptive capacity. For example,
Jantarasami et al. (2010) report that staff from U.S. federal land
management agencies identified resource constraints as a key barrier
to adaptation. Similarly, surveys and interviews with state and local
government representatives in Australia indicate that the costs of
investigating and responding to climate change are perceived to be
significant constraints on adaptation at these levels of governance
(Smith et al., 2008b; Gardner et al., 2010; Measham et al., 2011). However,
Burch (2010) argues that financial constraints on adaptation reported
by local governments in Canada are secondary to other institutional
practices and cultures (Section 16.3.2.8).
Insurance represents a cross-cutting financial instrument that is relevant
to a range of public and private institutions in both developing and
d
eveloped nations. While insurance can represent an opportunity to
influence decision making regarding climate risk management (Næss
et al., 2005; Herweijer et al., 2009; see also Section 10.7), reduced
accessibility and/or increased costs of insurance can constrain the utility
of insurance as an adaptation option (Herwijer et al., 2009; Islam et al.,
2014; see also Section 10.7).
16.3.2.6. Human Resource Constraints
The effectiveness of societal efforts to adapt to climate change is
dependent on humans who are the primary agents of change (very high
confidence). Human resources provide the foundation for intelligence
gathering, the uptake and use of technology, as well as leadership
regarding the prioritization of adaptation policies and measures and
their implementation. Although the AR4 and subsequent adaptation
literature identify human resources as one of the factors influencing
adaptive capacity (Adger et al., 2007), there has been little attention
given specifically to human resources as a constraint on adaptation by
adaptation researchers. Rather the literature mentions human resources
in two principal contexts. First, it highlights the linkages between the
development of human resources and adaptive capacity more broadly.
For example, Ebi and Semenza (2008) treat human resources as part of
the portfolio of resources that can be harnessed to facilitate adaptation
in the public health arena. Similarly, Nelson et al. (2010a,b) use human
capital as one indicator of the capacity of rural communities to cope with
climate impacts. In addition, a number of recent studies call attention
to the role of leadership in enabling or constraining organizational
adaptation (Gupta et al., 2010; Tompkins et al., 2010; van der Berg et al.,
2010; Termeer et al., 2012). Murphy et al. (2009) discuss the emergence
of institutions to build human resources in the climate change arena,
including expanded higher education opportunities to build climate
expertise as well as professional societies. Second, the literature
highlights the finite nature of human resources as a need to prioritize
adaptation efforts including the extent of engagement in participatory
processes (van Aalst et al., 2008) as well as the selection of adaptation
actions for implementation (Millar et al., 2007).
16.3.2.7. Social and Cultural Constraints
Adaptation can be constrained by social and cultural factors that are
linked to societal values, world views, and cultural norms and behaviors
(very high confidence; O’Brien, 2009; Moser and Ekstrom, 2010; O’Brien
and Wolf, 2010; Hartzell-Nichols, 2011). These social and cultural factors
can influence perceptions of risk, what adaptation options are considered
useful and by whom, as well as the distribution of vulnerability and
adaptive capacity among different elements of society (Grothmann and
Patt, 2005; Weber, 2006; Patt and Schröter, 2008; Adger et al., 2009;
Kuruppu, 2009; O’Brien, 2009; Nielsen and Reenberg, 2010; Wolf and
Moser, 2011; Wolf et al., 2013). Although the AR4 noted that social and
cultural constraints on adaptation have not been well researched, more
recent literature has significantly expanded their understanding. As a
case in point, the erosion of traditional knowledge among the Arctic
Inuit is the consequence of a long-term process of changing livelihoods,
technology, and sources of knowledge (Pearce et al., 2011; see also
Section 16.3.2.1). Studies from the USA indicate that increasing demand
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Chapter 16 Adaptation Opportunities, Constraints, and Limits
16
f
or amenity lifestyles is resulting in the settlement of individuals in
locations where there is little experience or oral history regarding natural
hazards—a phenomenon that subsequently influences risk perception
and engagement in risk management (Heyd and Brooks, 2009; Gordon
et al., 2013).
Different actors within and among societies experience different
constraints, which result in differential adaptive capacities and preferences
for adaptation options (Wolf et al., 2013). As discussed in the AR4, for
example, gender can be a factor that constrains adaptation. Recent
studies from Nepal and India report that adaptation decisions among
women, in particular, can be constrained by cultural and institutional
pressures that favor male land ownership (Jones and Boyd, 2011) and
constrain access to hazard information (Ahmed and Fajber, 2009),
respectively. Studies of evacuation during Hurricane Katrina suggest
that females were more likely to evacuate New Orleans than males
(Brunsma et al., 2010), as were individuals without sufficient resources
and access to transportation (Cutter and Emrich, 2006). Studies from
both the USA and UK find that the elderly do not necessarily perceive
themselves as vulnerable to extreme heat events (Sheridan, 2007; Wolf
et al., 2009), which may create disincentives to react to such events
(Chapter 11).
Barriers to taking action have also been attributed to sense of place,
which shapes individual identity (Adger et al., 2011, 2012; Fresque-
Baxter and Armitage, 2012). Foresight (2011) notes that processes that
constrain migration could be maladaptive, resulting in the abandonment
of livelihoods or geographic locations. For example, Park et al. (2012)
find that sense of place attachment among some wine grape growers
in Australia precludes consideration for migration to other growing
areas in response to a changing climate.
Case studies from multiple developing countries report that some actors
view natural phenomena as being controlled by God, supernatural
forces, or ancestral spirits that are not amenable to human management
(Sehring, 2007; Schipper, 2008; Byg and Salick, 2009; Mustelin et al.,
2010; Kuruppu and Liverman, 2011; Artur and Hilhorst, 2012). Such
perspectives are not confined to the developing world. Surveys
conducted after Hurricane Katrina also indicated that religious beliefs
were a factor influencing the decision to remain rather than evacuate
(Brunsma et al., 2010).Yet, religion was also identified as a factor that
enabled affected individuals to cope with the stress of the event.
16.3.2.8. Governance and Institutional Constraints
Research conducted since the AR4 has expanded understanding of
adaptation constraints associated with governance, institutional
arrangements, and legal and regulatory issues. Adaptation to climate
change will necessitate the mobilization of resources, decision making,
and the implementation of specific policies by societal institutions
(Huang et al., 2011). Yet, these processes may be most effective when
they are aligned to the given context and group of actors (Berkhout,
2012; Garschagen, 2013). The adaptation literature provides extensive
evidence that institutional capacity is a key factor that can potentially
constrain the adaptation process (very high confidence; Berkhout, 2012).
Lesnikowski et al. (2013), for example, find that planned adaptation
b
y the public health sector among different nations is significantly
associated with national GDP. Similarly, it has been