Friday, 17 January 2014

Limits to adaptation, knowledge and power, institutional capacities, and working together

I had made some notes for a blog post just before the Christmas Holiday, but didn’t have the chance to post them then. So, here a few notes from December.

On Monday 16 December, I attended a lecture by Frans Berkhout, from King’s College in London, about limits to climate change adaptation. He explained that he and several co-authors studied limits to climate change adaptation as a concept, in a chapter for the Working Group 2 part of the coming IPPC report (scheduled to be released end of March 2014). They developed this concept of limits to adaption on the notion of discontinuity of current practices. That is, adaptation limits have been reached when adaption actions can no longer secure the practices and objectives strived for by an actor; and when losses due to climate change are considered intolerable. Afterwards, the discussion centred around the question: but who is to decide and identify what unacceptable damages are, and based on what? The announcement poster with an abstract of the presentation can be found here:

There were two papers that week, which had caught my attention. The first one I found on the blog from Art Dewulf (from Wageningen University in the Netherlands). This is the link to his blog: He announced that an article on ‘The role of knowledge and power in climate change adaptation governance: a systematic review’ authored by Martijn Vink, himself and Catrien Termeer, has recently been published in the journal Ecology & Society (link to the article: In this article, they observe that knowledge and power are discussed in rather a static way in the far majority of the literature on governance for climate change adaption. They argue that a more dynamic understanding of knowledge and power would better reflect the complex and ambiguous context of climate change adaptation.

The second paper that got my attention was an article on ‘The adaptive capacity wheel: a method to assess the inherent characteristics of institutions to enable the adaptive capacity of society’, by Joyeeta Gupta, Catrien Termeer, Judith Klostermann and five other co-authors, published in the journal Environmental Science & Policy in 2010. In this paper, the authors propose an assessment framework assisting “academics and social actors to assess if institutions stimulate the adaptive capacity of society to respond to climate change” with six dimensions, being: variety, learning capacity, room for autonomous change, leadership, availability of resources and fair governance (Gupta et al., 2010, p. 459).

On Wednesday the 18th, Duncan Russel and I had a skype meeting with our colleague Tim Taylor to discuss the approach to study the UK climate change adaptation cases, for the BASE project. Our colleague Tim Taylor also works for the University of Exeter, though not in Exeter. He is located at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health, in Truro, in Cornwall; which is a 3-hour-journey from Exeter. Tim Taylor will study climate change adaptation in relation to human health, for the case of Cornwall, and for the case of the UK. We made a start in coordinating the research approach; we will work on further, and meet again early February. The meeting in February will be a live physical meeting, and Duncan Russel and I will go down to Cornwall. I haven’t been in Cornwall yet and I am very much looking forward to doing so!