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Observed adaptation to climate change: UK evidence of transition to a well-adapting society?

Observed adaptation to climate change: UK evidence of transition to a well-adapting society?
Observed adaptation to climate change: UK evidence of transition to a well-adapting society?
This paper investigates whether and to what extent a wide range of actors in the UK are adapting to climate change, and whether this is evidence of a social transition. We document evidence of over 300 examples of early adopters of adaptation practice to climate change in the UK. These examples span a range of activities from small adjustments (or coping), to building adaptive capacity, to implementing actions and to creating deeper systemic change in public and private organisations in a range of sectors. We find that adaptation in the UK has been dominated by government initiatives and has principally occurred in the form of research into climate change impacts. These government initiatives have stimulated a further set of actions at other scales in public agencies, regulatory agencies and regional government (and the devolved administrations), though with little real evidence of climate change adaptation initiatives trickling down to local government level. The sectors requiring significant investment in large scale infrastructure have invested more heavily than those that do not in identifying potential impacts and adaptations. Thus we find a higher level of adaptation activity by the water supply and flood defence sectors. Sectors that are not dependent on large scale infrastructure appear to be investing far less effort and resources in preparing for climate change. We conclude that the UK government-driven top-down targeted adaptation approach has generated anticipatory action at low cost in some areas. We also conclude that these actions may have created enough niche activities to allow for diffusion of new adaptation practices in response to real or perceived climate change. These results have significant implications for how climate policy can be developed to support autonomous adaptors in the UK and other countries.
transition, adaptation, climate change, adaptive capacity, institutions
0959-3780
627-635
Tompkins, Emma L.
a6116704-7140-4e37-bea1-2cbf39b138c3
Boyd, Emily
1cba87e3-cba6-4135-abaa-5f86702fa10e
Nicholson-Cole, Sophie
24df368e-654f-4930-bab8-9ffca59547ed
Adger, W. Neil
880deff5-3dde-429f-9b50-4366c54bcfe7
Weatherhead, Keith
97cbde31-3418-433d-9b54-294314281812
Arnell, Nigel
b3aeba9d-59fe-4608-aa60-4eae969212e2
Tompkins, Emma L.
a6116704-7140-4e37-bea1-2cbf39b138c3
Boyd, Emily
1cba87e3-cba6-4135-abaa-5f86702fa10e
Nicholson-Cole, Sophie
24df368e-654f-4930-bab8-9ffca59547ed
Adger, W. Neil
880deff5-3dde-429f-9b50-4366c54bcfe7
Weatherhead, Keith
97cbde31-3418-433d-9b54-294314281812
Arnell, Nigel
b3aeba9d-59fe-4608-aa60-4eae969212e2

Tompkins, Emma L., Boyd, Emily, Nicholson-Cole, Sophie, Adger, W. Neil, Weatherhead, Keith and Arnell, Nigel (2010) Observed adaptation to climate change: UK evidence of transition to a well-adapting society? [in special issue: 20th Anniversary Special Issue] Global Environmental Change, 20 (4), 627-635. (doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2010.05.001).

Record type: Article

Abstract

This paper investigates whether and to what extent a wide range of actors in the UK are adapting to climate change, and whether this is evidence of a social transition. We document evidence of over 300 examples of early adopters of adaptation practice to climate change in the UK. These examples span a range of activities from small adjustments (or coping), to building adaptive capacity, to implementing actions and to creating deeper systemic change in public and private organisations in a range of sectors. We find that adaptation in the UK has been dominated by government initiatives and has principally occurred in the form of research into climate change impacts. These government initiatives have stimulated a further set of actions at other scales in public agencies, regulatory agencies and regional government (and the devolved administrations), though with little real evidence of climate change adaptation initiatives trickling down to local government level. The sectors requiring significant investment in large scale infrastructure have invested more heavily than those that do not in identifying potential impacts and adaptations. Thus we find a higher level of adaptation activity by the water supply and flood defence sectors. Sectors that are not dependent on large scale infrastructure appear to be investing far less effort and resources in preparing for climate change. We conclude that the UK government-driven top-down targeted adaptation approach has generated anticipatory action at low cost in some areas. We also conclude that these actions may have created enough niche activities to allow for diffusion of new adaptation practices in response to real or perceived climate change. These results have significant implications for how climate policy can be developed to support autonomous adaptors in the UK and other countries.

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More information

e-pub ahead of print date: 4 June 2010
Published date: October 2010
Keywords: transition, adaptation, climate change, adaptive capacity, institutions
Organisations: Global Env Change & Earth Observation

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 199979
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/199979
ISSN: 0959-3780
PURE UUID: 6b441c0e-a0e2-476a-9e58-43da3bf33f05
ORCID for Emma L. Tompkins: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-4825-9797

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Date deposited: 17 Oct 2011 15:53
Last modified: 02 Dec 2022 02:44

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Contributors

Author: Emily Boyd
Author: Sophie Nicholson-Cole
Author: W. Neil Adger
Author: Keith Weatherhead
Author: Nigel Arnell

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