When not every response to climate change is a good one: Identifying principles for sustainable adaptation


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When not every response to climate change is a good one: Identifying principles for sustainable adaptation

  1. 1. review articleWhen not every response to climate change is a goodone: Identifying principles for sustainable adaptationSIRI ERIKSEN1,*, PAULINA ALDUNCE2, CHANDRA SEKHAR BAHINIPATI3, RAFAEL D’ALMEIDAMARTINS4, JOHN ISAAC MOLEFE5, CHARLES NHEMACHENA6, KAREN O’BRIEN7, FELIXOLORUNFEMI8, JACOB PARK9, LINDA SYGNA7 and KIRSTEN ULSRUD71 Department of International Environment and Development Studies, Noragric, Norwegian University of Life Sciences,P.O. Box 5003, No-1432, Aas, Norway2 Department of Environmental Sciences and Renewable Natural Resources, University of Chile, Sta. Rosa 11.315, La Pintana,Santiago, Chile; Department of Resource Management and Geography, Melbourne School of Land and Environment,University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia3 Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS), 79, Second Main Road, Gandhi Nagar, Adyar, Chennai 600 020, India4 Center for Environmental Studies (NEPAM), University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Cid. Univ. Zeferino Vaz, Campinas, SP 13083-867,Brazil5 Department of Environmental Science, University of Botswana, Private Bag 00704, Gaborone, Botswana6 Council for Scientific & Industrial Research, Meiring Naude Road, Pretoria 0001, South Africa7 Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1096, Blindern, Oslo 0317, Norway8 Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research, PMB 05, Ojoo, Ibadan, Nigeria9 Green Mountain College, One Brennan Circle, Poultney, VT 05764, USAClimate adaptation has become a pressing issue. Yet little attention has been paid to the consequences of adaptation policiesand practices for sustainability. Recognition that not every adaptation to climate change is a good one has drawn attention to theneed for sustainable adaptation strategies and measures that contribute to social justice and environmental integrity. This articlepresents four normative principles to guide responses to climate change and illustrates the significance of the ‘sustainableadaptation’ concept through case studies from diverse contexts. The principles are: first, recognize the context for vulnerability,including multiple stressors; second, acknowledge that differing values and interests affect adaptation outcomes; third, integratelocal knowledge into adaptation responses; and fourth, consider potential feedbacks between local and global processes.We argue that fundamental societal transformations are required in order to achieve sustainable development pathways andavoid adaptation funding going into efforts that exacerbate vulnerability and contribute to rising emissions. Despite numerouschallenges involved in achieving such change, we suggest that sustainable adaptation practices have the potential to addresssome of the shortcomings of conventional social and economic development pathways.Keywords: adaptation; climate change; environmental change; sustainable development; transformation; vulnerability1. Introduction coming century regardless of reductions in green- house gas emissions, mainly due to thermalClimate adaptation has become a more visible inertia of oceans and the long atmospheric life-and pressing issue in recent years. In part this time of carbon dioxide and other greenhousecan be attributed to the recognition that the gases (Matthews and Caldeira, 2008). However,climate system will undergo changes in the it has also been reluctantly acknowledgedB *Corresponding author. E-mail: siri.eriksen@umb.noCLIMATE AND DEVELOPMENT 3 (2011) 7–20 doi:10.3763/cdev.2010.0060# 2011 Earthscan ISSN: 1756-5529 (print), 1756-5537 (online) www.earthscan.co.uk/journals/cdev
  2. 2. 8 Eriksen et al.that emission reductions are unlikely to decrease addition to climate variability, extremes and theat the rate and magnitude necessary to risk of disaster (Eakin, 2006; Reid and Vogel,prevent climate change that is dangerous to 2006; Schipper and Pelling, 2006; Ziervogelmany (Parry et al., 2009; Schellnhuber, 2009). et al., 2006; O’Brien et al., 2008).Adaptation is thus increasingly considered as Developed countries are committed to the goalessential to reducing vulnerability to dangerous of jointly mobilizing USD30 billion for the periodclimate change. 2010 – 2012 (and an additional USD100 billion a Yet, although adaptation can potentially year by 2020) to address the climate-related chal-reduce the negative impacts of climate change, lenges of developing countries, and much of thislittle attention has been paid to the consequences will go to adaptation (ENB, 2009). The increase inof adaptation policies and practices for sustain- attention to and resources for adaptation suggestsability. In some cases, what seems to be a success- that it is critical to ‘get adaptation right’ in orderful adaptation strategy to climate change may in to solve, rather than exacerbate, problems. Con-fact undermine the social, economic and sequently, it is important to understand what itenvironmental objectives associated with sus- means to sustainably adapt to climate change,tainable development. Strategies or policies that or what is referred to in this article as ‘sustainablemake sense from one perspective, or for one adaptation’. Sustainable adaptation is definedgroup, may at the same time reduce the liveli- here as adaptation that contributes to sociallyhood viability or resource access of other and environmentally sustainable developmentgroups. Likewise, an eagerness to reduce climate pathways, including both social justice andrisk through specific technologies or infrastruc- environmental integrity.tural changes may sometimes lead to the This article presents and discusses the conceptneglect of other environmental concerns, such of sustainable adaptation to climate change andas biodiversity (Næss et al., 2005; Eriksen and identifies four normative principles to guideO’Brien, 2007; Eriksen and Lind, 2009). Hence, responses to climate change. We illustrate theadaptation can have unintended negative principles of sustainable adaptation and their sig-effects both on people and on the environment. nificance through case studies from diverse con- A recognition that not every adaptation to texts. In the conclusions, we discuss theclimate change is a good one has drawn attention possibilities and limitations for achieving sustain-to the need for sustainable adaptation strategies able adaptation in practice. We suggest thatand measures, and for qualifying what types of despite numerous challenges, attention to prin-adaptation are desirable or not (Eriksen and ciples for sustainable adaptation can contributeO’Brien, 2007). There is also an increasing recog- to socially and environmentally sustainablenition of the potential of climate adaptation to responses to climate change.address some of the mistakes and shortcomingsof conventional social and economic develop-ment pathways that have contributed to social 2. Climate change adaptation andinequity, poverty and environmental problems sustainable development(Ulsrud et al., 2008). It is particularly importantto identify the synergies between adaptation Adaptation to climate change has been describedand sustainable development because urgent from a wide range of perspectives, and manyand overwhelming poverty problems in the adjectives have been used to modify the termworld are far from satisfactorily addressed, and (autonomous, involuntary, planned, passive,environmental problems other than climate reactive or anticipatory, etc.). In terms ofchange also threaten people’s livelihoods and climate change, adaptation has been defined asquality of life. Indeed, most individuals and com- the process or adjustments through whichmunities are adapting to multiple stressors, in people reduce the adverse effects of climate onCLIMATE AND DEVELOPMENT
  3. 3. Identifying principles for sustainable climate adaptation 9their health and well-being, and take advantage development initially focused on the closeof the opportunities that their climatic environ- connection between environmental problems,ment provides. Other definitions have argued poverty, inequity and basic human needs.more forcefully that adaptation includes the However, the concept of sustainability has beenreduction of vulnerability (Smit et al., 2000; criticized as a vague policy term rather than anDebels et al., 2009). Leary (1999) and Burton academic concept subject to rigorous analysis. Itet al. (2002) referred to climate adaptation as a has been accused of being malleable to suit anywide range of behavioural adjustments that interest, or a ‘rhetorical cover for business-households and institutions make (including as-usual politics’ (Cohen et al., 1998, p. 353),practices, processes, legislation, regulations and distracting attention from any fundamentalincentives) to mandate or facilitate changes in changes in systems. There have, however, beensocio-economic systems, aimed at reducing vul- many calls for ‘strong sustainability’, whichnerability to climatic variability and change. involves changing current modes of develop-Nelson et al. (2007) defined adaptation as the ment, questioning calls for continued economicdecision-making process and the set of actions growth and appealing for a less managerialundertaken to maintain the capacity to deal approach to human– environment relationswith current or future predicted change. These (Adams, 2009).definitions are summarized in the Intergovern- Cohen et al. (1998) argued that it is precisely inmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defi- forging the links between climate change and sus-nition of adaptation: the adjustment to tainable development, in terms of focusing rigor-practices, processes and systems in order to ame- ous analysis and policy efforts on the political,liorate negative effects and take advantage of social and ethical dimensions, that action inopportunities associated with climate change both areas can be achieved. According to Robinson(IPCC, 2007). and Herbert (2001), climate change can be made Debates on climate change adaptation have more relevant to policy by contextualizing ittaken place largely outside of the broader dis- within a sustainable development framework.course on sustainable development (Bizikova They argue that mitigation and adaptation canet al., 2010). Although sustainable development contribute to a range of sustainability goals, athas been included as a theme in many of the the same time that sustainable development pol-assessments by the IPCC (Munasinghe and icies can contribute to emission reductions. AsSwart, 2000; Yohe et al., 2007), little attention with debates about sustainable development, thehas been paid to the identifying principles that climate change problem raises questions aboutcreate synergies between adaptation and sustain- the underlying development pathways causingable development. Cohen et al. (1998) pointed both environmental problems and povertyout that although climate change is one of the (Adams, 2009). The issues of climate change andmost important symptoms of an unsustainable sustainable development thus converge in theeconomic system, the climate change and sus- call for fundamental changes to developmenttainable development fields have been separated pathways. A critical point is the recognition ofby differences in discourse. For example, climate alternative development paths, and ‘how muchchange has been largely constructed as an choice we have about what kind of world we willenvironmental problem that can be solved by end up in’ (Robinson and Herbert 2001, p. 146).reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with littleattention to its social, cultural, political andethical dimensions (O’Brien et al., 2010). This 3. Key principles for sustainable adaptationeffectively bypasses the complex, context-specificand multidimensional challenges of sustainable An underlying premise for the concept of sustain-development. The concept of sustainable able adaptation is that many responses to climate CLIMATE AND DEVELOPMENT
  4. 4. 10 Eriksen et al.change will create social and environmental reduce global greenhouse gas emissions andexternalities, including trade-offs and negative facilitate a rapid transition to low-emission econ-consequences. Sustainable adaptation thus con- omies suggests that adaptation measures shouldsiders the wider effects of adaptive responses emphasize low-emission solutions. Responses toon other groups, places and socio-ecological climate change can thus be seen as a means forsystems, both in the present and in the future. promoting alternative development pathways,Sustainable adaptation can be distinguished such as transitions to low-carbon economies,from adaptation in general in that it qualifies organic agriculture and horticulture, agrofores-actions in terms of their effects on social justice try, ecological sanitation, water harvesting,and environmental integrity; that is, adaptation water purification by the use of solar energy,is sustainable only if it contributes (and at the alternative modes of transport, decentralizedvery least does not seriously erode) these two fea- renewable energy supply, recycling or participa-tures. This qualifying of adaptation is a response tory plant breeding (Ulsrud et al., 2008; Winklerto concerns that adaptation has often been oper- and Marquand, 2009).ationalized in practice through changes in tech- Sustainable adaptation differs from a reformistnology, institutions and managerial systems view of sustainable development, and from an(Klein et al., 2007), rather than challenging interpretation of adaptation as a mere adjustmentcurrent development paths, including the of current practices and development paths. Forsocial, economic and political structures that example, development paths that contribute tounderlie many contemporary problems. inequity and poverty, or are based on fossil Sustainable adaptation can be considered fuel-intensive consumption patterns, are inevit-necessary in response to three problems high- ably called into question by the concept of sus-lighted in the vulnerability literature. First, tainable adaptation. The types of responses thatclimate change is a global problem that affects contribute to social equity and environmentalboth current and future generations, and integrity will depend on the context, and there-responses must be sensitive to both spatial and fore vary between people and places, and overtemporal consequences. Adaptations taken to time. Hence, ‘sustainable adaptation’ does notbenefit one sector or group may undermine the suggest that a specific technology or practicesecurity and well-being of others, such as by influ- can be identified that will be viable in all placesencing resource access and the integrity of ecosys- or at all times. Instead, practices need to changetems that many people depend upon for their as the context changes, forming part of the newlivelihoods (Eriksen et al., 2005). Second, wide- and dynamic development paths required tospread poverty makes many individuals, house- reduce both vulnerability and greenhouse gasholds, communities and states vulnerable to emissions.even small shocks and stressors. The tendency The question then arises as to what character-of poor people to be highly vulnerable to istics or conditions should be looked for whenclimate change is often used as a justification for assessing adaptation responses? How can theimplementing adaptation; however, whether or concept of sustainable adaptation be realized?not the proposed adaptation measures will actu- Four main principles are presented here, and ela-ally assist poor groups is seldom assessed. Since borated on through case studies that illustratenot any and every adaptation intervention how adaptation can be formulated in differentreduces poverty and inequality (and some contexts. The challenges in using such anpoverty reduction measures may aggravate vul- approach are also discussed. As with all responsesnerability), sustainable adaptation measures to climate change, it is important to consider theneed to specifically target links between vulner- vested interests, the mismatches between theability and poverty (Eriksen and O’Brien, 2007; scales of action and issues of power relations,Eriksen et al., 2007). Third, the need to drastically the prioritization of certain types of knowledgeCLIMATE AND DEVELOPMENT
  5. 5. Identifying principles for sustainable climate adaptation 11and the lack of systems perspective in the process combination with infrastructure, climate-relatedof decision-making. These factors are, however, extreme events, such as heavy rainstorms andlikely to become more visible if the principles flooding, will continue to have effects on liveli-are included in adaptation planning. hoods and long-term vulnerability. A large pro- portion of inhabitants in the case study area are older people (40% are above 50 years of3.1. Key principle 1: recognize the context for age), levels of education are low and very fewvulnerability, including multiple stressors are engaged in the formal sector (9%), most working as artisans, farmers and traders. House-Individuals, groups and regions are experiencing hold sizes are large: close to 80% of the house-many types of stressors, besides environmental holds have more than four people. At the samechange, that together create a context for vulner- time, houses are old (more than half are olderability (Eakin, 2006; Ziervogel et al., 2006; Lei- than 30 years) and many are constructed inchenko and O’Brien, 2008; Eriksen and Lind, materials that do not withstand rainstorms2009; Tschakert and Dietrich, 2010). Recognizing and flooding. Poor waste collection leads tothe role of multiple stressors in influencing this blocked drainage systems. In some parts thecontext for vulnerability involves acknowledging situation is made even more precarious due tothat despite good intentions, some adaptations sparse vegetation, meaning that any heavymay not improve social equity and environ- rainfall results in flooding (Ijaiya and Umar,mental integrity. The underlying social, econ- 2004). Hence, key conditions generating vulner-omic, institutional and cultural conditions that ability include poverty, overcrowding and socialcontribute to a wider context for vulnerability inequity.thus need to be understood, in order to identify A number of socio-environmental changesdirect and indirect consequences of adaptation create the conditions described above. Theseefforts, and to be sensitive to the spatial and include the marginalization of urban dwellers intemporal effects of such efforts. In terms of terms of infrastructure, services and incomesocial and environmental consequences, sus- opportunities; rapid urbanization; physical devel-tainable adaptation thus places a greater opment on environmentally sensitive lands suchemphasis on how the structural and contextual as wetlands, slopes and floodplains that exacer-factors that create vulnerability, such as bates environmental degradation; and floodingchronic poverty and unequal terms of trade, risks (Olorunfemi and Raheem, 2007; Olorun-influence the outcomes of adaptation measures. femi, 2008; Mehrotra et al., 2009; GbadegesinThis first principle of sustainable adaptation et al., 2010). Extensive damage to propertiesthus holds that responses should be sensitive and livelihoods contribute to the endemicto the wider context in which climate change poverty in most parts of Kwara State. For instance,is experienced. increasingly frequent and severe floods have damaged electricity facilities in some areas for months, disrupted trading, and washed away3.1.1. Case study: addressing the vulnerability crops in suburban areas. Traders, artisans andcontext of poor communities affected by floods women farmers are among the most vulnerableand rainstorms in the city of Ilorin, Nigeria groups.The importance of this principle is illustrated by In order to develop measures that contribute tothe case of poor, urban and semi-urban areas of sustainable adaptation, it is necessary to addressIlorin, the capital city of Kwara State in the structural and contextual factors that createNigeria. There are multiple stressors that gener- vulnerability, such as those described above.ate vulnerability in these areas, and unless Measures also need to include an understandingsocio-economic dimensions are tackled in of how livelihood dynamics form part of the CLIMATE AND DEVELOPMENT
  6. 6. 12 Eriksen et al.vulnerability context. For example, support from for adaptation. For example, linking democratiza-friends and relatives and personal savings explain tion and empowerment efforts with those ofhow a large proportion of disaster victims cope adaptation can potentially address differing andwith its immediate impacts. Sustainable adap- often conflicting adaptation interests (Eriksentation measures must be sensitive to the need to and Lind, 2009). The second principle involvessustain such support networks. At the same recognizing differential interests and potentialtime, however, measures would also need to value conflicts, and identifying how these mayaddress the vulnerability context in the long influence outcomes, particularly for the mostterm by complementing household mechanisms vulnerable.and addressing some of the structural processes.This could be achieved, for example, by facilitat-ing livelihood diversification and formal 3.2.1. Case study: including the adaptationsupport systems that could relieve the stress on interests of vulnerable groups in local governmentsocial networks in times of disasters. This first policy in Durban, South Africaprinciple of sustainable adaptation involves The case of Durban, exposed to both flooding andbroadening responses to recognize, and where coastal erosion, illustrates how important it is topossible address directly, the context in which develop institutions (and how these institutionsclimate change is experienced. This context conceive climate change) that focus on socialincludes stressors such as the marginalization of equity and vulnerability in order to achieve sus-urban dwellers in terms of infrastructure, services tainable adaptation. In particular, prioritizingand income opportunities, as well as physical the needs of vulnerable groups in both develop-developments that threaten environmental ment and climate policy processes is critical.integrity and exacerbate flood risk. Before the democratic transition in 1994, environmental concern at the local level was low in South Africa. The process of democratiza-3.2. Key principle 2: acknowledge that tion resulted in a development agenda thatdifferent values and interests affect focused on the need to address the social inequityadaptation outcomes created by the Apartheid regime, but with little connection to climate change (Roberts, 2008;Values and interests play an important yet seldom Carmin et al., 2009). In the beginning, anydiscussed role in climate change responses, and climate change action was also largely discon-they influence the adaptation strategies that are nected from concerns about adaptation and vul-prioritized by different groups (O’Brien, 2009). nerability; for example, the Cities for ClimateRecognizing potential value conflicts can help Protection campaign initiated in 2000 largelyto identify how adaptation responses taken by focused on developing mitigation-related pol-one group may affect the vulnerability context icies (Roberts, 2008). Although important as aof other groups. Strong vested interests within first step, the campaign failed to generate an insti-particular adaptation strategies may act as a tutional framework, knowledge about climatebarrier to sustainable types of adaptation. For change and adaptation, or interest among gov-example, the adaptive responses that distribute ernment agencies or the population at largerisk across market and subsistence production in (Carmin et al., 2009).Ghana may in fact prioritize the maintenance of The situation improved when programmesthe status quo for men, at the cost of women’s self- started to focus more specifically on vulnerabilitydetermination (Carr, 2008). Sustainable adaptation and climate protection, such as through conven-may thus involve a more transparent political ing a vulnerability assessment. This assessmentprocess that creates enabling conditions and access served as an opportunity to engage differentto information that supports decision-making municipal stakeholders in climate changeCLIMATE AND DEVELOPMENT
  7. 7. Identifying principles for sustainable climate adaptation 13discussions (Carmin et al., 2009), leading to rec- knowledge is recognized and used in decision-ognition of the city’s vulnerability and of existing making is crucial in determining which interestsinitiatives through which adaptation could be or development paths are prioritized. Differentfacilitated. A second phase focused on key approaches to adaptation often reflect varyingmunicipal sectors such as urban infrastructure, approaches to knowledge and understandings ofhuman health and disaster risk reduction the local context, resulting in different diagnoses(Roberts, 2008). of both problems and solutions. Integrating local The case indicates that it is important not only knowledge based on the experience of living in ato mainstream climate change responses into risky place and of observing the natural environ-local government policies but also to consider it ment is essential for sustainable adaptation tounder a framework of social inclusion, justice climate change (Olsson and Folke, 2001; Berkes,and sustainable development. Not only could 2007). Community-based adaptation initiativesthe interests of vulnerable groups be heard; by are increasing in response to the top-down, tech-including vulnerable groups in the science – nical approaches promoted by the scientific dis-policy interface understanding of the impli- course on climate change (Huq and Reid, 2007).cations of climate change in the local context In the dominant scientific discourse, practices ofwas enhanced, generating local interest and the poor have often been blamed for environ-policy action (Vogel et al., 2007). The case also mental degradation, and resource control hasexemplifies the importance of having local cham- consequently been transferred from local popu-pions within government structures that can lations to central governments or to privatespearhead such engagement, an observation pre- actors (Benjaminsen et al., 2006). The third prin-viously made in other contexts such as Norway, ciple of sustainable adaptation recognizes thatSweden and the USA (Næss et al., 2005; Lowe successful responses involve integrating localet al., 2009; Sanchez-Rodriguez, 2009; Storbjørk knowledge with other sources of knowledgeet al., 2009). Such a dependence on individuals about climate change.within government structures can neverthelessbe a barrier to the social inclusion of vulnerablegroups, since how (and if) processes are designed 3.3.1. Case study: building on local knowledge andand which interests are heard are related to the ´n, capacity in risk reduction in Concepcio Chileparticular knowledge, connections and orien- The importance of existing local knowledge andtation of an individual rather than institutiona- capacity is particularly well illustrated by thelized and democratic adaptation policy case of Concepcion, Chile.1 Over time, vulnerable ´processes. The second principle suggests the people have developed responses to disastersneed to ensure that representation of groups based on their knowledge and understanding ofthat are vulnerable to climate variability and the conditions and environment where theychange is institutionalized in formal government ¨ live. The community of Aguita de la Perdiz con-or development processes. It also requires that sists of mainly informal and illegal settlements,such processes analyse and recognize different built on landslide-prone areas on the ‘Caracolinterests and potential value conflicts up front, hill’, downtown of the second largest city inand identify how these may influence outcomes. ´ Chile, Concepcion (Mardones and Vidal, 2001; Hauser, 2005). Climate-related hazards, such as rainfall or3.3. Key principle 3: integrate local knowledge cyclones, are expected to increase in frequencyinto adaptation responses and magnitude because of climate change. However, there remains substantial uncertaintyDifferent groups and actors produce different in the rate and behaviour of these changes (Chris-knowledge on adaptation, and which source of tensen et al., 2007). Hence, timely and local CLIMATE AND DEVELOPMENT
  8. 8. 14 Eriksen et al.adaptation to ‘new unknown severity and fre- sustainable adaptation for both urban andquency of hazards’ under a changing climate rural contexts; that is, the importance of gener-becomes imperative (Debels et al., 2009). In ating local knowledge and integrating it with2005, the community living in this area faced other sources of knowledge in order to developthe most severe event in 142 years when successful responses to climate change and162.2 mm precipitation fell in 24 h. The material empower local decision-making. Local knowl-damages were massive, with 100 out of 282 edge in disaster risk management is critical forhouses partially or completely destroyed (DMC, reducing vulnerability among the poorest, and2005; ONEMI, 2005). What was remarkable for a can be combined with policy efforts to addressdisaster of this magnitude was that there were social equity and vulnerability. Any policy inter-no deaths reported, and only a few injuries. vention to strengthen adaptation and reduceIn-depth interviews with people affected by the risk would need to recognize community par-flood revealed that a crucial aspect that helped ticipation in disaster prevention and responseto protect what is most important – their lives – and strategies for living with environmentalwas the knowledge people had of their environ- variability (Wisner et al., 2004; Eriksen et al.,ment and vulnerability (Aldunce et al., 2005; Pelling and High, 2005; van Aalst et al.,forthcoming). 2008). Recognizing and acting on an unusual levelof rainfall, the community made use of bothpast experience and knowledge about which 3.4. Key principle 4: consider potentialareas would be most exposed and which feedbacks between local and global processespeople would be hardest hit. Rather thanwaiting for external warning and help, people Adaptation responses may directly affect theorganized a refugee camp, evacuated vulnerable vulnerability of local populations, but everycommunity members and took turns to protect response can also influence – or be influencedhouses against robbery (Aldunce et al., forth- by – larger-scale processes. As Adger et al.coming). Faced with recurrent extreme events, (2009) pointed out, vulnerability is nested and ¨the Aguita de la Perdiz community has shown tele-connected through environmental changeitself capable of generating social learning, and feedbacks, economic linkages and global flowsthe population has a high level of risk awareness of resources, people and information. The possi-and knowledge about the physical environment bility that feedbacks and linkages can influenceand potential vulnerability. This in turn has both social justice and environmental integrityresulted in proactive behaviour in terms of well- over both space and time raises questionsorganized community participation and leader- about the sustainability of many adaptationship in disaster response, and improved capacity responses. For example, adaptations often haveto adapt to climate extremes. The high degree of significant implications for greenhouse gas ¨social learning enabled people of Aguita de la emissions, water quality and access, and biodi-Perdiz to assist neighbouring communities in versity. Likewise, adaptations can influencetheir response and recovery, both during the migration, trade patterns and urbanization pro-2005 deluge and in other disasters. The key cesses. Mitigation of climate change is particu-role of autonomous adaptation and local knowl- larly important, as continued global warmingedge in adapting to climate variability and can overwhelm local adaptive capacity. Thechange has been frequently illustrated in rural fourth principle of sustainable adaptationcontexts (Eriksen et al., 2005; Eakin, 2006; hence focuses on the need for responses toReid and Vogel, 2006; Ziervogel et al., 2006). recognize the interactions between local and ¨The case of Aguita de la Perdiz shows the more global processes, which can create both positiveuniversal relevance of the third principle of and negative feedbacks.CLIMATE AND DEVELOPMENT
  9. 9. Identifying principles for sustainable climate adaptation 153.4.1. Case study: linking adaptation with local cooling due to the artificial ice.3 At thismitigation and transformations towards a resilient instance, local adaptation is clearly not placedsociety in Norway in a global context. There is little awareness onThe importance of embedding local actions and how the effects of local adaptation responses,adaptation in an understanding of climate through local and global linkages and feedbackchange as a global concern is illustrated in the processes, in turn affect global warming.case of snow-dependent leisure activities in Even if energy consumption is increasinglyOslo, Norway. For local adaptation efforts to be considered in the production of artificial snowconsidered sustainable there is the need to con- and ice, there are nevertheless limits to suchsider the global effects of these efforts. For forms of adaptation. The production of artificialexample, using low- rather than high-energy snow and ice can only support skating andadaptation options would limit greenhouse gas skiing in isolated areas, while the loss of naturalemissions that contribute to global warming winter conditions and associated recreationaland increased risk elsewhere. activities could damage cultural and emotional Winter sports and leisure activities such as attachment to the winter landscape, and poten-skiing and skating are ingrained in the Norwegian tially lead to a loss of values around nationalnational identity. A warming climate has led identity.to deteriorating snow and ice conditions, Sustainable adaptation in the case of Norwayespecially since the 1970s. In the Oslo region, would involve both drastic cuts in GHG emis-inhabited by a fifth of the country’s population2 sions to reduce future deterioration of snow con-and where an estimated 80% use the forests ditions as well as transformation towards newfor recreation (Berg, 2004; Vaage, 2004), the types of recreation and cultural identities. In thenumber of days with skiing conditions are pro- current framing of the climate change problem,jected to decline by 40% from the 1981 –1999 however, local weather and responses areperiod to 2050 (Iversen et al., 2005). A transform- treated as isolated from global changes. Such anation of recreational activities and ways of defin- approach may reinforce a dominant compla-ing national identity may be required in the cency regarding Norway’s ability to adapt itslong term. way out of climate change (O’Brien et al., 2006) However, current adaptations in the face of and stifle public and policy engagement forwarming conditions appear to focus on preser- addressing climate change. The fourth principleving existing activities through ‘controlling’ of sustainable adaptation – recognizing the inter-local environmental conditions in the short actions between local and global processes –term in the face of changing weather conditions, involves broadening responses from narrowoften in ways that involve increased energy use. short-term goals to instead helping to transformFor example, the municipal authorities and society through enhanced resilience and flexi-sports clubs now produce large quantities of arti- bility in the face of uncertainty, accommodatingficial snow and ice. In western Oslo, for example, diverse needs (beyond skiing), and recognitionthere are now plans to construct the country’s of both positive and negative feedbacks frombiggest artificial ice rink to enable people to local measures.skate despite warming winter conditions. Thoseopposed are concerned about local increases intraffic, noise and light pollution. Completely 4. Conclusions: practical and conceptualabsent from the debate, however, are concerns lessons regarding sustainable adaptationabout the global climate with respect to theincreased emissions that result from the energy Sustainable adaptation can be defined as a set ofused in producing artificial ice. The main climatic actions that contribute to socially and environ-consideration in the debate was the potential for mentally sustainable development pathways, CLIMATE AND DEVELOPMENT
  10. 10. 16 Eriksen et al.including social justice and environmental integ- of changing climatic conditions (rather thanrity. However, just as adaptation provides an ‘controlling’ specific environmental conditions),opportunity to transform society towards sustain- while at the same time minimizing greenhouseability goals, adaptation actions can also exacer- gas emissions. It is important that adaptationbate greenhouse gas emissions, vulnerability to actions do not lock people into high-emissionclimate change and a number of development and soon-obsolete technologies or practices, norproblems. In this article, we have outlined four reinforce dependency relations. Instead, actionsprinciples that can guide adaptation responses need to contribute to a cleaner, greener andin a manner that supports sustainability. Sustain- more equitable society. Navigating the globalable adaptation should (1) recognize the context long-term consequences of adaptation actions isof vulnerability, including multiple stressors, (2) complex. In the case of biofuel production, sus-acknowledge that different values and interests tainability would entail promoting energyaffect adaptation outcomes, (3) integrate local access and livelihood options by the poor inknowledge into adaptation responses and (4) ways that enhance adaptive capacity, whileconsider potential feedbacks between local and avoiding production patterns that entrenchglobal processes. An underlying premise for the dependency or create vulnerability, environmentfour principles is that adaptation is not neutral, and land loss problems (African Biodiversityand not all adaptation will ‘do good’; there will Network, 2008).be trade-offs, feedbacks and negative conse- Sustainable adaptation also calls for a strength-quences. Assessing and understanding these ening of social resilience. The case of Concepcion´dimensions and moving towards sustainable underscores the importance of social capital anddevelopment pathways requires a renewed focus community empowerment as part of sustainableon the consequences of adaptation actions, adaptation, through strong citizen participation,whether these actions are policy driven or auton- local identity and local organization. Socialomous, or involve social development, altered capital is made up of different norms and net-technology and practice, economic or insti- works that enable people to act collectivelytutional measures, legislation or infrastructure, (Woolcock and Narayan, 2000; Adger, 2003) andor changes to political, structural or social enable the knowledge sharing, spreading of riskrelations. and claims for reciprocity in times of crisis. Such The four case studies presented above illustrate networks are scale dependent and are associateddifferent aspects of these principles. However, no with a flexible and adaptive society (Adger,single case illustrates a perfect or comprehensive 2003). A central challenge reflected in the cases,example of sustainable adaptation. It is important however, is that strengthening local capacityto acknowledge that even if applied, the four alone does not effectively reduce vulnerability.principles alone do not guarantee sustainable Increased sustainability can only be achieved ifadaptation. This article represents a first step in local capacity is combined with measures aimeddefining sustainable adaptation, and there is at including socially marginalized groups,clearly a need for continued reflexivity, and what making the voices of vulnerable groups heard inTschakert and Dietrich (2010) refer to as ‘antici- decision-making processes that affect their adap-patory learning’. Furthermore, many gaps still tation interests and making these interestsexist between research and practice. How, then, count in the face of pressures from economiccan these principles be used to implement sustain- development, such as physical development ofable adaptation in practice? While answering this lands that currently increase climate risk andquestion is beyond the scope of this article, a few reduce land rights of the poor.reflections are offered below. The road to sustainable adaptation starts with Sustainable adaptation is likely to entail the understanding that adaptation is a ‘process’societal organization that is flexible in the face rather than a list of actions and measures thatCLIMATE AND DEVELOPMENT
  11. 11. Identifying principles for sustainable climate adaptation 17address specific climate change impacts. Sustain- Referencesable adaptation requires going beyond one-timeclimate proofing measures, and questioning the Adams, W. M., 2009. Green Development. Environmentassumption that every adaptation to climate and Sustainability in a Developing World. Routledge,change will be beneficial. The consequences of London. Adger, W. N., 2003. Social aspects of adaptive capacity,actions and measures must be considered within climate change, adaptive capacity and development.the much broader social and environmental Climate Change, Adaptive Capacity and Development,context; trade-offs and the potential for negative J. B. Smith, R. J. T. Klein and S. Huq (eds). Imperialoutcomes over space and time must be recog- College Press, London, UK.nized. The normative principles of sustainable Adger, W. N., Eakin, H. and Winkels, A., 2009. Nestedadaptation can be considered a first step in and teleconnected vulnerabilities to environmentalguiding responses towards social justice and change. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 7(3). 150 – 157.environmental integrity. African Biodiversity Network, 2008. Letter to Members of the Industry, Research and Energy Committee of the European Parliament: Renewable Energy Direc-Acknowledgements tive Must Not Promote Unsustainable Biofuels. African Biodiversity Network, 28 August.This article is the result of discussions by a group ´ ´ Aldunce, P., Levın, V. and Leon, A., forthcoming. Com-of scientists from Asia, Africa, Latin America, munity participation: a bridge for disaster riskNorth America and Europe at several meetings, management and adaptation to climate change.including an International Human Dimension A Changing Environment for Human Security: New Agendas for Research, Policy and Action, K.Workshop (IHDW) on Sustainable Adaptation O’Brien and L. Sygna and J. Wolf (eds). Earthscan,held in New Delhi in October 2008, the IHDP London.Open Meeting in Bonn 2009, and the GECHS con- Benjaminsen, T. A., Rohde, R., Sjaastad, E., Wisborg, P.ference in Oslo, June 2009. We are grateful for and Lebert, T., 2006. Land reform, range ecology,support for these events from IHDP and the and carrying capacities in Namaqualand, SouthResearch Council of Norway. Rafael D’Almeida Africa. Annals of the Association of AmericanMartins acknowledges the financial support of Geographers, 96(3). 524 – 540. doi: 10.1111/j.1467 – 8306.2006.00704.x.the Brazilian Federal Agency for Support and Berg, N., 2004. Holdnings og brukerundersøkelse i OsloEvaluation of Graduate Education (CAPES) and kommune for Friluftsetaten. Utarbeidet for Oslo ˜the State of Sau Paulo Research Foundation Kommune, Friluftsetaten (Survey of Attitudes and Users(FAPESP) as well as the hospitality granted by in Oslo Municipality). Oslo Municipality, Norway.the Department of Environmental Policy Analy- Berkes, F., 2007. Understanding uncertainty and redu-sis, Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), cing vulnerability: lessons from resilience thinking.Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Natural Hazards, 41. 283– 295. Bizikova, L., Burch, S., Cohen, S. and Robinson, J., 2010. Linking sustainable development with climate change adaptation and mitigation. Climate Change,Notes Ethics and Human Security, K. L. O’Brien et al. (eds). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 157 – 179.1. This case study draws upon on the research carried Burton, I., Huq, S., Lim, B., Pilifosova, O. and Schipper, ´ out by Aldunce, P. and Levın, V. between 2005 and E. L., 2002. From impacts assessment to adaptation 2007 (Aldunce et al., forthcoming). priorities: the shaping of adaptation policy. Climate2. Statistics Norway: www.ssb.no/utlstat/tab-2009- Policy, 2(2– 3). 145 – 159. doi: 10.1016/S1469 – 03-12-05.html, www.ssb.no/utlstat/tab-2009-0. 3062(02)00038-4.3. Newspaper articles: www.oslogk.no/Dokumenter/ Carmin, J. A., Roberts, D. and Anguelovski, I., 2009. Bogstad%20vinterparadis%20faktaark.pdf; www.akers Planning climate resilient cities: early lessons from posten.no/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081002/NYH early adapters. Proceedings of the World Bank Fifth ETER/899389345/1052. Urban Research Symposium on Cities and Climate CLIMATE AND DEVELOPMENT
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