10th debate

Is adapting to climate change (really) our best choice?

érosion 1

Final Announcement

Winners of the “best contribution” awards:
The committee members (Deborah Harford, Silja Klepp, Gonzalo Lizarralde, David Wachsmuth, and Mauro Cossu) acknowledge the engagement of all participants and their thoughtful contributions to this debate. They determined that the winners are:
Oleg Zurmühlen  First prize – best comments
1000 CAD$
Steffen Lajoie  Second prize
500 CAD$
Duvan Hernán López  Third prize
300 CAD$
Juan Sebastian Canaveral Herrera Fourth place
Congratulations to winners!

Vote graph.xlsx

The moderator’s opening remarks

Since the 1980s, scholars have debated whether decision makers should focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation), reducing the risks posed by climate change (adaptation), or both. At first, mitigation prevailed in international climate policy, with a focus on reducing carbon emissions. In fact, early documents by the Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change (IPCC) barely mentioned adaptation as a strategy to fight global warming. But in 2001, an IPCC report claimed that “adaptation is a necessary strategy at all scales to complement climate mitigation efforts.” Today, several experts accept that an “integrated portfolio” of mitigation and adaptation is required.
In a 2007 article in Nature, a team of experts argued that the “taboo on adaptation” should now be discarded. Adaptation, they said, is necessary for three main reasons. First, even if emissions are drastically cut today, carbon will remain in the atmosphere for decades (the “timescale mismatch”) and the effects on the climate will persist for years. Second, people suffer from several vulnerabilities not related to greenhouse gases (the “emissions fallacy”). Third, poor countries and societies—which suffer most from the effects of global warming, but are also less responsible for the emissions that cause it—will still need risk reduction measures for decades to come (the “remediation” imperative). Other defenders of adaptation have argued that people and communities have several “adaptive capacities” that can be deployed and enhanced to deal with risks and disasters. They see in adaptation capacities the opportunity to “bounce forward” and prevent catastrophic events caused by hazards. Finally, urban experts often argue that adapting infrastructure and buildings is more environmentally and socially sound than replacing them with new constructions.
But critics often challenge the intrinsic value of adaptation. Several scholars have argued that the adaptation narrative often focuses on technical solutions, failing to address the root causes of vulnerability, such as marginalization, exclusion, racism, colonialism, and other injustices. They also argue that an emphasis on physical adaptation to the environment has helped “depoliticize” risk reduction and disaster response. Disaster reduction should be seen not as a technical issue, but as a political one: one that produces winners and losers and affects territories and societies in radical ways. Many have found that even “green infrastructure” aiming to reduce risk has secondary effects, such as gentrification and displacement. (Mal)adaptation perpetuates unsustainable patterns of development and exacerbates inequality and environmental degradation. These scholars wonder who should pay for adaptation measures, which rarely benefit the poor and marginalized. Critics also lament that the “adaptation capacity” concept is often deployed as a framework to transfer responsibilities to individuals and the private sector. As such, adaptation contributes, at best, to a neoliberal conception of risk reduction and at worst to disaster capitalism. For them, the discourse of effective adaptation is rather dangerous, because it encourages industries and political elites to maintain current emission and pollution levels. Besides, sharing responsibility for climate response with individuals and communities (that are, or must become “adaptable”) dilutes the accountability of political and economic elites regarding pollution, disaster risk creation, and environmental degradation.
To tackle this debate, we have invited two internationally recognized experts on the effects of climate change and adaptation to defend each viewpoint.
Our panelists will present their most persuasive arguments over the next ten days, but the outcome of the debate rests in your hands. Don’t hesitate to vote immediately—you can always change your mind. Better yet, once you have cast your vote, add your voice to the debate and explain your decision.
emerging thought leader headshots june 2019
Deborah Harford argues that adapting to climate change is our best choice.
Deborah Harford is the Executive Director of the Adaptation to Climate Change Team (ACT), based in the Faculty of Environment at Simon Fraser University (SFU). As executive director of ACT, she is responsible for development of the initiative’s pioneering vision and its unique partnerships with the public and private sectors, as well as overall coordination and management of the program. A widely sought-after speaker and facilitator, Deborah contributes to a wide variety of national and international adaptation processes and initiatives on an ongoing basis. Recent examples of engagements and partnerships include Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Expert Panel on Adaptation and Resilience Results (2018), the Council of Canadian Academies’ Expert Panel on Canada’s Top Climate Change Risks (2019), the Technical Working Group of the Canadian Centre for Climate Services, the Infrastructure & Buildings Working Group of Canada’s National Adaptation Platform, and the Expert Adaptation Panel of the new Canadian Institute for Climate Choices.
Silja_Klepp
Silja Klepp argues that adapting to climate change is not (necessarily) our best choice.
Dr Silja Klepp is a full professor of geography at Kiel University, Germany where she directs the research group Social Dynamics in Coastal and Marine Areas. She is a member of the research cluster The Future Ocean, co-founder of the EnJust Network for Environmental Justice and advisory board member of the Heinrich Böll Foundation.
In her current research on climate change migration and adaptation, she integrates post-colonial perspectives and critical theories in the study of climate change effects. She has worked and published on issues of climate justice and climate migration in Oceania, on boat people in the Mediterranean Sea and on EU refugee and border politics. She has conducted field research in Kiribati, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Zealand, Italy, Libya and Malta.
The proposer’s opening remarks
Adaptation to climate change is already an urgent priority around the world for communities, individuals, ecosystems and economies coping with flooding, drought, heatwaves, wildfires, and their effects on health, equity, infrastructure, biodiversity, and socio-economic systems.
The root cause of the spread of viruses such as COVID-19 is habitat loss due to carbon-intensive development, which encroaches on ecosystems, displacing species already at risk from climate warming. But the terrible disruption caused by this pandemic will not compare to the global challenges for water, food, and energy security, health and wellbeing, business continuity and supply chains, and aggravated geopolitical instability that climate change will cause in coming decades. Slower onset impacts, such as sea level rise and melting glaciers, will devastate coastal and delta communities and freshwater supply. Displacement of people and impacts on society’s most vulnerable will be among the biggest concerns.
These impacts will increase between now and 2050, even if we reduce emissions. The results of our efforts will become more visible after this, with high emissions trajectories threatening runaway climate change. Adaptation therefore cannot be separated from emissions reduction; the two should be planned in an integrated manner known as “low carbon resilience.” Likewise, the goal of adaptation is not to exist as a separate stream of research, planning and action—although these things are needed to ensure we understand how it can work.
Adaptation’s central purpose is to embed strategic responses to climate change risks into overall policy, planning and actions—a process known as mainstreaming—in order to reduce vulnerability and build societal resilience. This risk management approach is essential if we are to minimize climate damage to planning for global health, economies, infrastructure, ecosystems, and community wellbeing. Effective adaptation acknowledges that addressing poverty, health, and equity is key to building resilience, and supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Sendai and Paris Agreements, and the Aichi biodiversity goals.
Luckily, humans are extraordinarily adaptive creatures, and we have solid climate science to support decision-making for place-based and systemic responses based on community values and other priorities. These include “incremental” approaches that accommodate and reduce impacts, and “transformative” adaptation that re-imagines systems. In one inspiring example of doing both, Bangladeshi experts are leading their country’s response to sea level rise, helping coastal farmers transition to salt-tolerant crops while preparing their children to do different jobs from their parents as well as updates to inland cities in which they can relocate.
Adaptation is evolving rapidly as we learn more about what works and what needs to improve. Emerging focus areas include co-creation of solutions with Indigenous peoples, infrastructure retrofits and managed retreat, understanding gender impacts and mental health needs, nature-based solutions, and more.
Collaboration on development of these solutions is accelerating at all levels of society around the world. What we put in place now—from policy to buildings—will be continually tested by climate impacts. If we work together to build widespread low carbon resilience, we can strategically benefit a wide range of social and economic priorities.
The opposition’s opening remarks
During my research in Kiribati, Oceania, I saw a signboard in the main office of the Kiribati Adaptation Program—which is financed by the World Bank and other international donors—that said “Adapt or Perish.” This imperious statement is symbolic of the way climate change adaptation has become a new “imperative” for the Global South. Narratives of climate change adaptation are increasingly based on urgency and the need for a certain kind of “expert” knowledge to realize “successful” and “effective” adaptation. Otherwise, populations will be “doomed.”
The shift in climate change governance from mitigation to adaptation (as explained by Gonzalo Lizarralde in his opening remarks) is, in itself, problematic. In the 2000s, adaptation came to be seen as an alternative policy to difficult and insufficient mitigation efforts. It also became an area in which international organizations, consultants, and NGOs found rich business opportunities. Today, we have the same kind of Western technical-fix projects in development aid that were so highly criticized in the 1980s and 1990s.
In my fieldwork interviews, I often heard citizens complain that consultants didn’t listen to the I-Kiribati (the people of Kiribati). Consultants instead followed their own frameworks and cultural practices, and often responded to profit-oriented objectives. Most climate adaptation consultants are “ticking their boxes,” as one of my research partners in Kiribati said. They create knowledge and practices that must fit into tight schedules (1–2 years), produce specific outcomes, and be marketable.
An “adaptation” industry has been established—one in which social contexts, cultures, and power-relations on the ground are rarely considered. In this industry, non-Western ontologies considered far from the logic of mainstreamed adaptation efforts are ignored, especially in international cooperation. Today, whole development programs have been reframed to focus on technology-driven adaptation measures. Why? Because climate adaptation is a more profitable market than dealing with other pressing problems, such as domestic violence. Moreover, many of us expect to obtain measurable results, even if they are modest, than more ambitious yet intangible outcomes, like (for example) developing more holistic understandings of resilient communities.
Several stakeholders are trying to work differently, applying new methods and frameworks. Daniel Morchain of IISD (International Institute of Sustainable Development), for instance, is experimenting with theatre play. Daniel and his group are trying to empower the most vulnerable and encourage more holistic and emancipatory approaches. According to Daniel, “Adaptation must be transformative, or else it is dangerous.”
I agree. Adaptation can be dangerous if it does not contribute to the urgently needed socio-ecological transformation in the field, where we see the failures of our Western lifestyles most clearly. Otherwise, adaptation will only perpetuate current institutions and the status quo. As long as climate change adaptation interventions are drafted in the headquarters of Western organizations without consideration of cultural aspects or the power relationships within and between communities, the risk of inflicting (epistemic) violence and injustices on the most vulnerable remains high. We need a new way of thinking and acting, based on solidarity, connectivity, and the idea of transformative change. And we need it not only within a nation-state system, but as a community of human and non-human beings connected in myriad ways in this Anthropocene epoch.
The proposer’s rebuttal remarks
Investment in adaptation is gaining momentum globally because we have failed to stop climate change. This is a problem facing everyone; however, perhaps the most painful injustice of this failure is that the lowest emitters will suffer the worst impacts. For instance, sea level rise resulting from heat accumulated in oceans means that small island states like Kiribati face the most unimaginable disruption of all—the disappearance of their homes and ancestral lands. While cutting emissions will slow rising tides, this destabilization is already happening, along with the difficult process of developing responses. As Dr. Klepp notes, if these efforts are poorly designed, they can add insult to injury.
We have seen similar issues in Canada’s Arctic, where climate change impacts are rapidly emerging and heavily affecting the Inuit peoples who have lived there since time immemorial. While Indigenous peoples are innately resilient, their capacity to adapt has been damaged by the legacy of colonization; moreover, many communities have voiced dissatisfaction about researchers from urban centres studying them and leaving without providing tangible benefit.
However, rather than refuting the need for adaptation, Dr. Klepp’s opening statement makes an excellent case for reconsidering how it is conceptualized and carried out. In many ways, the critique she outlines is understood and being acted on. There are numerous adaptation projects being led by champions in the developing world that model progressive approaches, transformative and otherwise, including the mainstreaming of adaptation into other actions.
As the urgency to adapt grows, biases and flaws in how adaptation is funded, researched, planned and implemented are being addressed, with growing understanding of the need to prioritize approaches underpinned by equity, social justice, co-creation, and decolonization. The need for adaptation can become an opportunity for mobilization of better ways of working, and living.
This evolution is mirroring advances such as the global movement to recognize the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. For instance, in Canada we are engaged in a Truth and Reconciliation process that is gradually addressing the damage done by colonization. In 2019, as part of a panel charged with developing criteria for Canada to measure progress on adaptation, I and the panel’s Inuit representative co-authored a chapter on Translation of Indigenous Knowledge and Western Science into Action. Our report[1] showcased the fact that Indigenous knowledge holds great value for adaptation as it evolves, and that western science and research capacity are equally useful if they are used in adaptation funding, policy and projects that have been respectfully co-designed with Indigenous experts. We identified the need to support this collaborative approach through investment in building awareness, capacity, relationships, and support for knowledge and solution development by and for the people who are experiencing climate changes.
The COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting inequalities in the global system in ways that hold significant lessons for next steps on climate action. It is more essential than ever that we work respectfully together to ensure that social justice and equity underpin adaptation in all contexts going forward.
[1] Expert Panel on Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience Results (2018). Measuring progress on adaptation and climate resilience: recommendations to the Government of Canada. Ottawa, Ontario: Environment and Climate Change Canada.
The opposition’s rebuttal remarks
Given the inspiring comments posted online, the opening remarks written by my “opponent,” Deborah Harford, and the related literature, clearly many of us agree that climate change adaptation (CCA) involves problematic knowledge-power relations that often hinder a fair and transparent outcome.
So, if we all agree, why is it so hard to implement fairer CCA interventions?
Climate change adaptation is definitely a social justice problem, not just an environmental one. This means that the challenge starts with thinking differently about our human-environment relations. We have lost our capacity to think of human beings as a fundamental part of nature since the so-called Enlightenment. Fortunately, in recent decades, literature from various angles has significantly helped us to think of natureculturessocionatures—or, as Donna Haraway puts it, the Chthulucene—in a much more inclusive and engaged manner.I want to suggest another perspective for thinking of climate change adaptation in a way that questions the traditional and problematic knowledge-power relations: Environmental Justice, which could help make CCA more just and transformative.
Environmental justice is rooted in environmental and civil rights activism and was always connected to the struggle of indigenous and first nation groups that seek a fairer distribution of environmental goods and bads. This means that from the beginnings of the EJ movement in the 1980s, ontologies that help us to think of naturecultures in a more inclusive way have played a crucial role. Since then, environmental justice has gone a long way in academia and among scholar activists, and has embraced a threefold (analytical) perspective:
1. Dimensions of distributive justice can help us think of who is included and who is excluded in the “community of justice” regarding CCA measures. To put it more bluntly, who will profit from adaptation money? Is it the most vulnerable? The most affected? Or elites that are closest to the international aid community?
2. Procedural justice aspects remind us to ask: Who has participated in the planning and realization of adaptation measures? Who has access to decision-making and to forums where a just way of adapting might be discussed?
3. The third fundamental claim in environmental justice is justice as recognition, as introduced by David Schlosberg[1]. It is closely connected to both distributive justice and procedural justice and aims at recognizing different ontologies and forms of knowledge. If we understand CCA as a complex set of narratives and practices, we might understand recognition as the most important tool to overcome the unfair knowledge-power relations that are inherent to CCA. And to reply to my dear “opponent” Deborah, this approach means the co-production of knowledge does not merely pay lip-service (as we often experience it today), but acknowledges adaptation as a messy, challenging social process that might have a truly open and transformative outcome.
I believe that systematically applying an environmental justice perspective could help us enormously to see injustices in adaptation more clearly, and to tackle them in a radical way.
[1] Schlosberg, D. (2007). Defining Environmental Justice. Oxford University Press.
The proposer’s closing remarks
Climate change is a social and political problem, and must be addressed as such. Adaptation is one key piece of a broader suite of social transformations that are needed in which equity and justice need to be at the forefront.
We have failed to reduce GHG emissions to the point where impacts will be negligible. We will have to adapt one way or another—either reactively, through piecemeal, haphazard responses that entrench conditions that create vulnerability, or pro-actively, as part of broader social transformation.
As such, adaptation raises a material and moral question: how can we maintain fidelity to principles of social and environmental justice while working in the field at intersections of knowledge and power? Who defines adaptation, what adaptation measures will be deployed, and for whom?
I believe that humans have the agency to create change in the broader structures that constrain us. Our ability to understand the likely impacts of climate change gives us what I call the adaptive advantage: the opportunity to plan now, rather than be blindsided, potentially alleviating suffering and hopefully initiating transformative change that addresses multiple priorities.
Three priorities must inform adaptation to ensure that it is not just a “technological fix” nor perpetuation of developed-world dominance, nor a purely anthropogenic-focused approach, but becomes a path toward truly sustainable development.
One: we must shift from separating adaptation and mitigation to an integrated focus I call “low carbon resilience.”[1] For example, as flooding and heat events increase, there is a danger that large-scale, emissions-intensive grey infrastructure will be the default solution. This is not the kind of response that we want. Rather, we need to consider adaptation and mitigation together in a more holistic approach.
Two: climate change threatens countless species. Ecosystem health underpins our survival. We must advance the necessity of nature-based solutions as a dual mandate to protect humans and ecosystems and consider the protection of nature in its own right.
Three: if people remain vulnerable, due to poverty, poor health care, and other social and political factors, our efforts will fail. While climate change creates new problems such as changing sea levels, it principally worsens existing problems. Acknowledging social justice and equity, and resourcing the capacity needed for effective responses, must become a central priority of organizations and researchers working on adaptation. We must work to act as allies, building partnerships that reflect lessons learned. This includes supporting people in the global South, local communities, and Indigenous peoples to direct the structure and design of adaptation funding, principles, planning and implementation.
If we action these three priorities, we may contribute to the development of transformative solutions based on principles that avoid “unsustainable development scenarios while meeting the needs of the disadvantaged.”[2]
[1] Harford, D. & Nichol, E. (2016). “Low Carbon Resilience: Transformative Climate Change Planning for Canada.” Vancouver, BC: Simon Fraser University.
[2] Prieur-Richard, A.H. et al. (2019). “Global Research and Action Agenda on Cities and Climate Change Science.” World Climate Research Programme.
The opposition’s closing remarks
One key message of this debate is that it is crucial to re-politicize climate change adaptation (CCA) as a knowledge power nexus at various scales.
Deborah illustrated how she and her colleagues are helping heal the injuries of colonialization in Canada. To co-operate in settings of post-colonialism or settler communities means to look at the history of violence through colonial policies and practices. These policies have often destroyed communities, through, for instance, abusive education systems. Enhancing community resilience in these cases often requires the empowerment and organization of communities. I would like to refer here to the work of Canadian scholar Emilie Cameron, who showed how researchers’ understandings of the terms “indigenous” and “local” can hinder political change and organize CCA measures in backward ways.[1]
Another point where I want to influence this debate in my closing remarks is the role of science and scientists. It is good that more (climate) scientists are acknowledging the political dimensions of climate change, by making public statements or engaging as scholar activists. The reflexivity and critical approach that we show in our research is necessary for our own work and engagement: What role does our work play in society, and how do we deal with the consequences?
Recent years have seen a major rise in attention paid to models of climate change and the socio-economic processes linked to it. For example, greenhouse gas emission projections like the representative concentration pathways (RCPs) now play a huge role in IPCC recommendations and general policymaking. But although the people publishing these pathways are often convinced that they are providing “neutral” or “objective” guidance for policymaking, this is not the case. On the contrary, Beck and Mahony (2017) have shown that reliance on RCPs has political implications, because it makes it harder to “think out of the box” or in a radically transformative way (for instance, when politicians consider a narrow range of scenarios that does not include alternative solutions like de-growth).[2]
I wish that we, as scientists, would not only ask for better predictions or more positivist science. I believe we need much more emphasis on the power relations that lie behind technical solutions and policy, such as UNFCCC negotiations. We need critical research on how we are locked in unsustainable pathways. Unfortunately, my impression is that we are going the wrong way. It seems that statistics, figures, and models are so ontologically powerful that, in the realm of climate change and of human environment relations more generally, measurements and models are taking over the research questions that would be better answered by interdisciplinary teams—teams that should include scholars from critical social sciences and the humanities. We are witnessing, for instance, the difficulty of social science research proposals to obtain grants in interdisciplinary funding calls. These observations should not lead us to inaction or disappointment. But they should remind us all that we have to work together in a courageous way. We should not shy away from the difficulties of inter-and transdisciplinary co-production of knowledge, but should find more inclusive, creative, and reflexive ways to work together. Moreover, we should place ourselves in the joint political fight against climate change and seek fairer ways of adapting to it. The network for environmental justice EnJust is a way to come together as critical scholars, activists and practitioners. You are all welcome!
[1] Cameron, E.S. (2012). “Securing indigenous politics: A critique of the vulnerability and adaptation approach to the human dimensions of climate change in the Canadian Arctic.” Global Environmental Change, 22 (1), 103–114.
[2] Beck, S. & Mahony, M. (2017). “The IPCC and the Politics of Anticipation.” Nature Climate Change 7, pp. 311–313.

The moderator’s closing remarks

The ethics and politics of climate change adaptation
Adaptation is still our best choice in the fight against climate change effects—but only if it is politically engaged, motivated by social justice, and aimed at reducing inequality and the root causes of vulnerability.
About 63 percent of participants in our 10th Oddebate believe that adapting to climate change is humanity’s best choice. Yet the arguments espoused here reveal that not just any type of adaptation is required, or even desirable. Adaptation that focuses exclusively on technical solutions while failing to deal with the social, economic and political conditions that lead to disasters is not only inappropriate, but dangerous.
Radical reductions of carbon emissions have proven difficult; indeed, we might consider them almost impossible in the short term were it not for major crises like the current Covid-19 pandemic (see our debate on fragility). We must therefore accept that some form of adaptation to a warming planet is necessary. Most participants agree that adaptation must be part of comprehensive strategies of disaster risk reduction. But it should not distract us from efforts to reduce carbon emissions and the depletion of nature.
The type of adaptation needed today requires specific governance structures and must be guided by certain values. Adaptation implies several capacities among local authorities, and it calls for institutions capable of recognizing the interests, traditions, and expectations of the most vulnerable. Activists, decision makers, professionals, and politicians working towards adaptation must recognize power imbalances and try to redress the negative effects of colonialism, marginalization, exclusion, racism, and imposed segregation. Actions to deal with natural hazards and environmental problems should not be separated from struggles for social justice. We must, therefore, expand spaces for open dialogue in which previous injustices are recognized and addressed. In other words, we must achieve what one of our participants called a “negotiated resilience” (see Is resilience useful?). Only in this way can adaptation become a vehicle in disaster risk reduction to align efforts towards positive social, political, and environmental change. Only in this way can we all adapt without leaving the poor behind.
Adaptation is no longer a way of describing how people deal with risk, but a normative approach adopted by international consultants, UN agencies, foreign charities, and other giants in the disaster industry. Adaptation efforts often focus on technical solutions alone (see our debates on technical standards and certifications), whose defenders are prone to pretending that this has no political implications. And yet there are always politics involved. Even though climate change is a global phenomenon, we must be aware that it does not affect people and regions equally. All actions—including those taken in the name of adaptation—have side effects and unintended consequences. The wrong type of adaptation can preserve or even increase inequalities and power imbalances. We must ensure that these effects do not increase vulnerabilities among the poor, minority groups, indigenous communities, and the historically excluded and marginalized.
The concept of adaptation must be “decolonized” if it is to be meaningful in reducing the risk of disasters and preventing new risks from being created. Actions taken in adaptation initiatives can perpetuate the dependence of poor countries and communities on wealthier ones. Attention must therefore be paid to who finances climate change adaptation (see our debate on aid), and who decides where, for whom, why, how, and when adaptation is implemented (see Is participation the key to success?). The type of adaptation required today recognizes the uniqueness and special needs of specific contexts and looks for alternative ways of producing culturally relevant interventions. But it does not regard local action as exclusively beneficial. It also recognizes that local elites and privileged groups may use adaptation to create divisions, favor tribalism, facilitate local corruption, and oppress rival political groups. When implementing adaptation, we must pay attention to both local values and universal human rights.
This debate revealed the complexity of framing climate action today. People’s opinion changed over the past two weeks. At first, 55 percent of participants were convinced that adaptation was crucial (“Yes”). After a few days, the vote was reversed, shifting slightly in favor of “No” (52 percent). However, in the end, “Yes” prevailed.
Like previous debates organized by Oeuvre durable and i-Rec, this one proved popular. The debate received over 313 votes and 74 comments (on Facebook, it also provoked feverish responses by climate change deniers, but we are not counting those). The debate webpage was visited over 3,100 times from about 1,500 people in 73 countries (this is the first time we have participants from Guernsey, Sudan, and Myanmar).
Thanks to Ilan, Steffen, Duvan, Juan Sebastian, Oleg, Noé, Yky, Carlos Alberto, Dag, Faten, Tushar, Vicente, Roberto, Steve, Saleemul, Ekatherina, Tapan, Remigio, Noé, Marisela, Ismael, Cissy, Daniel, and everyone else who participated for sharing their comments and pertinent ideas. Thanks to our panelists, Deborah and Silja, for their fantastic contributions. Special thanks to Mauro for coordinating this event during the difficult circumstances of the pandemic.
I hope to see you all at our next online debate in November 2020!

Comments

Tapan Dhar
 Mar 31, 2020
I would say, adaptation is ‘the’ only choice. In particular, developing nations have no option left except adaptations, even though they haven’t contributed much to producing greenhouse gases. This causes ethical injustice in global climate change. Although adaptation seems to be the best choice, it is also an opportunity, as IPCC mentioned, i.e., along with the specific adaptation actions for an area we must capitalize on other benefits of such actions. Otherwise, choosing the only adaptation might be ineffective. For example, sea-level rise and salt-water intrusion have largely affected agricultural production in coastal areas of the southwest Bangladesh; and consequently farmers convert their lands into shrimp farms.
Juan Sebastian Canavera Herrera
 Mar 31, 2020
In reply to:
I would say, adaptation is ‘the’ only choice. In particular, developing nations have no option left except adaptations, even though they haven’t contributed much to producing greenhouse gases. This causes ethical injustice in global climate change. Although adaptation seems to be the best choice, it is also an opportunity, as IPCC mentioned, i.e., along with the specific adaptation actions for an area we must capitalize on other benefits of such actions. Otherwise, choosing the only adaptation might be ineffective. For example, sea-level rise and salt-water intrusion have largely affected agricultural production in coastal areas of the southwest Bangladesh; and consequently farmers convert their lands into shrimp farms.

I agree with Tapan Dhar that adaptation to climate change for many communities is in itself not a choice, is a necessity. This has to do with what the moderator calls the “remediation” imperative in his opening. I believe adaptation is not something new. Societies around the world have always had the need to find ways to adapt to new conditions or shocks that arise from the environment or from within societies. If societies do not adapt they will not be able to continue thriving under the new conditions. Right now climate change is perhaps the biggest challenge we are facing as humanity and as the IPCC has recognised, especially in its 2018 special report “Global Warming of 1.5°C”, we can no longer think of stopping climate change. The IPCC is now urging the world to take measures so we can have a manageable climate change and not a catastrophic one. This means that change is going to happen in any scenario (related to the “timescale mismatch” mentioned by the moderator) and we need to adapt to the new climatic conditions. Therefore, I believe there is no choice, there is a necessity to adapt if we want to continue thriving and we need to begin understanding what are our best ways to do adapt.
In order to understand which adaptation, of what and whom, and for what, we need to stop seeing the problem of climate change as either a purely technical one (based on positivistic philosophies) or as a purely political one (as critical research proposes). In my view, the problem of climate change is simultaneously both and therefore it needs to be seen and analysed as a socio-technical problem that requires socio-technical solutions. We need the proper technological tools to solve some issues but also the proper policies and human intentions to tackle the root causes of vulnerability in many of our societies if we really want to survive the challenge of climate change.

Ilan Kelman
 Mar 31, 2020
By definition from the IPCC and UNDRR, climate change adaptation is a subset of disaster risk reduction https://doi.org/10.1108/DPM-02-2017-0043 with this conceptual framework applied across multiple sectors in the Handbook cited above https://www.routledge.com/The-Routledge-Handbook-of-Disaster-Risk-Reduction-Including-Climate-Change/Kelman-Mercer-Gaillard/p/book/9781138924567.
More background at https://doi.org/10.1007/s13753-015-0038-5 and https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-016-2294-0.
Since we know that disaster risk reduction must sit within sustainability, including dealing with everyday risks, but disaster risk reduction cannot cover all of sustainability or all risks, then from the initial definitions, it follows that climate change adaptation is essential but much more is needed to achieve wider sustainability. Details and examples are given in the four references listed in this message.
Ekatherina, Zhukova
 Mar 31, 2020
Gonzalo!
Thank you once again for posing such an interesting question and bringing in motivational panelists to the debate! Especially now, when we are all affected by the Corona virus whether physically or psychologically…
Well, I think adaptation alone is not enough. I see adaptation as a quick fix, a short-term perspective. It is a continuation of ecological modernisation reasoning, rather than a move towards ecological transformation. I would say to be effective, adaptation has to be accompanied by transformation of all systems – political, economic, social, cultural, and so on. As transformation does not happen in one day, it is therefore a long-term perspective. We cannot live within the same status quo by simply adapting to its consequences.
I find it very interesting with current responces to Covid-19, how fast certain decisions could be taken and how slow it took for other decisions to materialise. I wonder whether our reactions to the current epidemic can teach us something about how we treat climate change and hence the idea and practice of adaptation.
Yky
 Mar 31, 2020
I choose no to the question. And the reason for this is because we have no choice. But let me introduce some thoughts on this topic with one of the main difference between risk management and resilience. If you are risk management minded, there is a fair chance that you will address this issue with an engineering approach. You will compare the different consequences of climate change and propose the most adapted solutions to mitigate the risk. And obviously, there is nothing wrong with this. Seen from the resilience perspective, you will need to include a prerequisite which is the ability to reconsider the logics of your system. In other terms, you will need to be motivated by the “bounce forward” option rather than “bounce back”. Because, we are living in this changing world where surprise is likely, and not always a good surprise as showed by the covid disaster, we need to seek for the long term solutions that will improve our collective wellbeing and well-living. I know that introducing such thoughts in the debate mitigation vs adaptation may look too theoretical for some people. But understanding the basics of sociology and philosophy is key to find the best balance between mitigation and adaptation . Paulo Freire and Emmanuel Levinas have undoubtedly something to teach us.
Online Debates
 Apr 1, 2020
Dear Yky, Ekatherina, Ilan, Juan Sebastian, Tapan,
Thank you for your pertinent comments and for your interest in our online debates. Please note that the debate will start officially on April 27. We are still finalizing some details with the panelists. I look forward to having this interesting discussion with you all. I will post very soon.
Best,
Gonzalo L.
Mauro Cossu
 Apr 1, 2020
Dear all,
Thank you for your first contributions and for the interest expressed in the debate. I only wish to point out that, actually, we are in the pre-debate phase. We are finalizing the last details and getting ready to officially start on April 27.
Best,
Mauro
Roberto Cossu
 Apr 22, 2020
Ciao Mauro!. Really interesting topic, I’ll be really happy to participate and have my say about it. Sentiamoci appena puoi!
Saleem Huq
 Apr 22, 2020
I am based in Bangladesh and work on local level adaptation with the most vulnerable communities in some of the most Vulnerable Countries. For me the question I have is who is being included in the word “we”? If it is polluters living in countries that are the biggest historical emitters of green house gases then they certainly don’t think adaptation is a priority as they think (wrongly as it happens) that they won’t be negatively impacted by climate change. However for the hundreds of millions of poor and vulnerable people living (mostly) in the poorer developing countries, adaptation is absolutely essential. It would help to know which “we” you include yourselves in?
Online Debates
 Apr 23, 2020
Welcome to our online debate!
Thank you for your thoughts Saleem, Yky, Ekatherina, Ilan, Juan Sebastian, Tapan,
Some of you suggest that adaptation is inevitable. This might be the case, but this statement also raises an additional question: What happens when adaptation is no longer a way of describing vernacular responses to risk, and becomes a normative approach to policy?
In this case:
– Who should promote adaptation? (Saleem’s question)
– What are the secondary effects of adaptation?
– What are the “politics” of this normative approach?
– What are the blind spots and secondary effects of a normative approach to DRR?
– What do stakeholders do when they decide to enhance adaptation?
– How do political and economic elites use/adopt/explain adaptation?
Ben Wisner
 Apr 24, 2020
Words matter, and the word “adaptation” like so many buzzwords such as “sustainability” and “resilience” can be used to excuse and reproduce the current dominant power structure or to subvert it. Others have commented along similar lines. Certainly it is a matter of HOW adaptation to climate disturbance is implemented.
I find it useful to distinguish between adaptation with a big “A” and adaptation with a small “a”. Big A adaptation often takes the form of mega-projects such as irrigation schemes, dam construction, coastal barriers that have the effect of displacing ordinary people whilst providing investment opportunities for the wealthy. Big A adaptation also can block the feasibility of what ordinary people have been doing spontaneously to protect themselves and their livelihoods. We found that out during in research in Tanzania, where the fisheries and water resource policy developed by the government in the face of climate disruption favors industrial fish farming and coastal fisheries, but neglects and even makes more difficult the activities of many small scale fresh water fishers using reservoirs and small inland lakes.
The climate crisis and the current pandemic are occurring simultaneously. Responding to both, we are faced with two futures. We are in a liminal situation between the two: further reinforcement of the dominant system or its subversion by popular support of alternatives. The many, many examples of mutual aid and emergent local networks during the pandemic suggests that there is great potential for both crises (indeed, one complex, interwoven crisis involving climate, living things, people, systems of production, consumption, appropriation of wealth and governance) to result in a different future.
Another world is possible!
Yky
 Apr 24, 2020
In reply to:
Welcome to our online debate! Thank you for your thoughts Saleem, Yky, Ekatherina, Ilan, Juan Sebastian, Tapan, Some of you suggest that adaptation is inevitable. This might be the case, but this statement also raises an additional question: What happens when adaptation is no longer a way of describing vernacular responses to risk, and becomes a normative approach to policy? In this case: – Who should promote adaptation? (Saleem’s question) – What are the secondary effects of adaptation? – What are the “politics” of this normative approach? – What are the blind spots and secondary effects of a normative approach to DRR? – What do stakeholders do when they decide to enhance adaptation? – How do political and economic elites use/adopt/explain adaptation?

Thank you Gonzalo for enlarging the questioning around the concept of adaptation which may be full of promises and frustrations. It is worth to underline the ambiguity of the word. This ambiguity is due to the numerous fields to which adaptation refers. From biology, urbanism, psychology to sociology, the concept of adaptation shows its specificities and in the same time the need to better understand its interdisciplinary dimension when applied to climate change. Participants who are interested can find ample publications on this subject. But to (try to) answer some of your questions, I would argue that the sociological approach of the concept offers the best perspective. When social adaptation leads to a better understanding of how individuals can integrate and acquire the feeling of sharing the same values, in the same time, the collective learning of new ways of being and living will/should give the impulse to reconsider the relation we want to build with our environment in a systemic perspective of reciprocal commitments. Who should promote adaptation? My view is that current challenges should lead to reconsider the fundamentals that have led us to the current covid disaster. Obviously, we should not expect too much from those who want to come back to business as usual. Citizens need to organize themselves to build a counter-power. Shall we be kept free of a political normative approach? Never. And this seems to be already the case when local politicians want to force people to leave flooding zones to higher grounds. To offer the best perspective, it is needed to understand that (climate) adaptation cannot be decreed. It needs to be taught. A concept starts to be useful when it can be implemented. It needs to be contextualized. To this regard the concepts of dialogical pedagogy and alterity will help not to fall in the normative approach trap you are referring to. Last but not least, and this will not surprise those who know my work, local artists and Art in general can help in providing other ways of thinking , offering the opportunity to see things differently, helping to identify the needed changes, to question possible causes, to reconsider the standard and the positions on which our policies are based.

Online Debates
 Apr 25, 2020
Thank you Ben for this interesting contribution!
Online Debates
 Apr 26, 2020
Here a fantastic article by Ben Wisner regarding frameworks. Words mater, he says. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13753-020-00263-0.
Silja Klepp
 Apr 27, 2020
Dear all,
it is fascinating to see how lively the debat is already BEFORE its official start! Thank you already for the inspiring comments and the article. I would love to see more literature suggestions. Here is the intro of our book “A critical approach to climate change adaptation. Discouses, policies and practices.” https://www.marinesocialscience.uni-kiel.de/de/bilder/introduction-a-critical-approach-to-climate-change-adaptation.
The debate is evolving so fast, that it would be really nice to have some other reading suggestions here…
Duvan
 Apr 27, 2020
I am glad to join this interesting debate,
Many thanks for the amazing literature referenced that has resulted inspiring. I really testify an increasing critical movement that converges in appropriate spaces like this debate.
In coincidence with Ben I understand concepts have a liberating or oppressing potential. Echoing also Silja and Libertad, adaptation may be transformative, but it implies unmasking depoliticizing trends and reinforcing social, cultural, political and economic real incidence in the ground.
About the implementation of these dimensions of adaptation at the local level, I introduce the experience that I had the opportunity to participate (and analyze) into a book chapter available here (http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-56946-8_29).
A territorial retrospective which dives into what Ben calls risk creation is a basic starting point for guiding an initiative of adaptation concerned with justice issues. Reacting to questions from Gonzalo, this historical perspective provides guidance on who should pay for adaptation, and, in what direction trade-offs should move among stakeholders.
Adaptation in this sense has a social restorative effect. In the context of post-disaster recovery this aspect has similarities (and references to learn from) with post-war reconstructions, where true, forgiveness, justice and reparation operate.
I stop for the moment, repeating that adaptation, as any other widely performative concept, could be normative, even oppressive, but also an opportune device to driven social justice in a context of territorial conflict.
Online Debates
 Apr 27, 2020
Thank you Silja and Duvan for your comments.
Is adaptation reinforcing the perception that climate change is an environmental problem rather than a socio-political one? A 2019 survey conducted by Yale University and George Mason University found that 75% of Americans see global warming as an environmental issue, and 64% as a severe weather problem. But only 29% of Amricans see it as a poverty issue, and only 24% see it as an issue of social justice and fairness. See: https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/climate-change-in-the-american-mind-april-2019/.
What do you think?
Steve Winkelman
 Apr 27, 2020
As Deb and I have written about, we need to BOTH prevent and prepare, mitigate and adapt through low-carbon resilience strategies that can attract more $ implementation and increase return on investment:

Taking Action on Green Resilience: https://act-adapt.org/reports/taking-action-on-green-resilience-climate-change-adaptation-and-mitigation-synergies/.

Low Carbon Resilience: Best Practices for Professionals: http://act-adapt.org/lcr-professionals-final/

Yung-Fang Chen
 Apr 28, 2020
The yes and no options are very difficult to choose. Yes we should adapt to the impact of climate change because it is happening and we need to learn to live with the situation; however it is also NO because we need to continue to take actions to reduce the progress / impact of climate change, I think.
Yky
 Apr 28, 2020
In reply to:
Thank you Silja and Duvan for your comments. Is adaptation reinforcing the perception that climate change is an environmental problem rather than a socio-political one? A 2019 survey conducted by Yale University and George Mason University found that 75% of Americans see global warming as an environmental issue, and 64% as a severe weather problem. But only 29% of Amricans see it as a poverty issue, and only 24% see it as an issue of social justice and fairness. See: https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/climate-change-in-the-american-mind-april-2019/.
What do you think?

Interestingly, the publications posted by this debate participants show the expert awareness of the threat of normative approach. Though, this does not seem to be case for non-expert Americans as shown by the Yale publication. What is the reason for such gap? Is this a pedagogic issue or is it explained by something “deeper”. What is the missing link? Of course, the environmental perception refers to the risk of losing a settlement and more generally to see our comfort zone endangered. But this relates also to the capability to reconsider norms. Obviously this does not mean to reject everything. This capability is representative of a state of mind, being able to have a non-linear view embarking social and political considerations. Being able to have this non-linear view is extremely complicated as we are conditioned precisely by norms, usages, habits we are used to without fully realizing it. In a different register, I remember a speech of James Baldwin explaining why it is so difficult for a white men grown society to realize the deep implications of racism… Is there hope to regain such critical thinking? I do think so. After all, our ancients, thousands year ago had a vision encompassing nature and mankind that we lost. We probably have a collective responsibility in joining efforts to build bottom up initiatives. Will the covid disaster offer this opportunity? It questions the meaning of adaptation seen from the sociological point of view, going beyond the sole climate change issue. How can we adapt to our social environment when homeless are requested to stay at home? A simple question that hopefully will help non expert citizens to realize that normative threats are not a theoretical vision.
Yky

Online Debates
 Apr 28, 2020
“The current program of ‘mainstreaming’ adaptation into existing development logics and structures perpetuates an antipolitics machine, obscuring and depoliticizing rather than addressing the political dimensions of the adaptation problem. Mainstreaming risks [is] not only reproducing development-as-usual, but in fact reinforcing technocratic patterns of control.” write Morgan Scoville-Simonds, Hameed Jamali, and Marc Hufty in The Hazards of Mainstreaming: Climate change adaptation politics in three dimensions. Do you agree?
Duvan
 Apr 28, 2020
In reply to:
Thank you Silja and Duvan for your comments. Is adaptation reinforcing the perception that climate change is an environmental problem rather than a socio-political one? A 2019 survey conducted by Yale University and George Mason University found that 75% of Americans see global warming as an environmental issue, and 64% as a severe weather problem. But only 29% of Amricans see it as a poverty issue, and only 24% see it as an issue of social justice and fairness. See: https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/climate-change-in-the-american-mind-april-2019/. What do you think?

We should acknowledge adaptation, resilience, sustainability and, in general, environmental management, are instrumentalized.
They emerge reacting to evident malfunction effects, externalized repercussions of production processes; asymmetric risk distributions, would say Beck. Tangibility of impacts awakens a public awareness that needs to be satisfied, what is accomplished by those in power, pretending the minimum of concessions, but ensuring discontent alleviation.
This evokes, somehow, the role assigned by biopolitics to third sector institutions, as Hard & Negri exposed, didactically, in their book Empire (2002).
Probably some of you have known a metaphor used by Gustavo Wilches from Colombia … “riding in the bus of development, we allocate resources to increasingly sofisticated safety accesories for passengers, but the majority of the investments are driven to accelerate the adrenaline and speeding of the driver”
Not neglecting the windows of opportunity for transformation opened by discursive and institutional development of adaptation, reflecting with the elements of this debate, I would recognize that our civilizational effort should be focused far beyond mitigation or adaptation accessories, but on the headquarters of big decisions, and, that applies at a multiscale perspective.

Juan Sebastian Canavera Herrera
 Apr 28, 2020
Thanks all for the very interesting comments and recommended references. As I can observe all of us agree that it is wrong to take the politics out of adaptation and that there is a very evident need by practitioners and non-practitioners to understand the political decisions and assumptions behind adaptation decisions.
I agree that mainstreaming adaptation risks reinforcing development-as-usual but I think the problem doesn’t lie in the action of mainstreaming itself. I consider that mainstreaming is a necessary action we cannot avoid if we really want adaptation to be put into the agendas of different organisations and governments. Some have suggested hiding adaptation behind other concepts like eco-urbanism, even behind development itself, in what some authors call “adaptation by stealth”, but I agree with Ben that words matter and we need to be talking overtly about adaptation. I believe that the crucial aspect here is that there needs to be more transparency of what the intentions behind adaptation plans or programmes are. It is not only about mainstreaming it but also establishing how we define it, what does it imply and who is in charge of it. I feel that all these calls for understanding better participation processes and is a big governance issue. I do not know if we could even get to a one-size-fits-all governance structure for adaptation. I think is not possible as it will always be contextual. And this leads to the paradox of having global problems that require local solutions.
I would be happy to hear the experience of other participants in terms of which governance structures might be better for adaptation and which participatory methods they might recommend. I think that understanding that will help us answer the questions of the moderator.
Oleg Zurmuehlen
 Apr 28, 2020
I agree with a lot of the previous commentators emphasizing that the answer to the question whether adaptation is our best choice or not is a lot more complicated than a mere ‘yes’ or ‘no’, as it is both mitigation and adaptation that is needed. Our best choice still is a profound socio-ecological transformation mitigating climate change, but adaptation is needed along the way.
However, climate change adaptation comes in different versions. It matters around which actors it is centered (is it planned by actors outside the affected community or autonomous by the affected community itself?) and which objective it pursues (is it transformative targeted at political-economic power structures or transitional targeted at a reform of governance-systems?). Precisely, it matters who is developing an adaptation scheme, as the author of a scheme determines its objective.
In most cases (e.g. in the National Adaptation Programme of Action, NAPA), adaptation is development in the cloak of climate change policies. Today, climate change adaptation (as a development scheme) mostly is planned by actors at the (trans-)national level involving donor institutions and NGOs. This institutional setting favors expert knowledge and prefers depoliticizing resilience approaches to adaptation rather than vulnerability approaches that take into account power structures. Consequently, “it matters which stories tell stories, which concepts think concepts. Mathematically, visually, and narratively, it matters which figures figure figures, which systems systematize systems”, to quote Donna Haraway (2015).
I want to add a perspective that critically engages with the knowledge behind mainstream climate change adaptation.
Expert knowledge, as it is mostly situated in Europe and settler-colonialist North America and Australia, is deeply rooted in the enlightenment thought and neoliberal context of Western knowledge systems. From such a eurocentric perspective, techno-scientific fixes present the most common way to facilitate adaptation. However, these fixes are instruments of an economy of repair that ensures globalized capitalism and modernist development to continue, ignoring that it is precisely these political-economic processes that produce climate change.
Techno-scientific fixes operate with simplifications, which are ignoring local knowledge systems and obscuring power structures. That’s why developmental climate change adaptation schemes mostly fail in the long term. The anthropologist and political scientist James C. Scott (1998) observed in his studies about development schemes that „the more schematic, thin, and simplified the formal order, the less resilient and the more vulnerable it is to disturbances outside its narrow parameters.”
Since climate change adaptation is not “our best choice” but indispensable, as it is already impossible not to “stay with the trouble” of climate change, there is an urgent need to pluralize adaptation knowledge. Mainstream climate change adaptation needs to shift from favoring eurocentric knowledge to multiple adaptation knowledges. By integrating local knowledges, dropping grand schemes for local ones, and working with local (non-expert) people rather than against them, pluralist climate change adaptation might even be key components for a socio-ecological transformation.
It’s not the question whether or not adaptation is our best or only choice, we should rather have a debate on how to politicize and decolonize climate change adaptation in order to unlock its potential for a just socio-ecological transformation.
Silja Klepp
 Apr 29, 2020
Dear Oleg, great comment! I think it is exactly the knowledge-power relations that are so complex and difficult to tackle in CCA that we have to work on most. I will take this up in my rebuttal remark. Thank you also for the literature…
Great on expert knowledge in CCA and in aid:
Svenja Keel, 2019, Consultants and the business of climate services: implications of shifting from public to private science.
Uma Kothari, 2005, Authority and Expertise: The Professionalisation of International Development and the Ordering of Dissent.
Yky
 Apr 29, 2020
One thing is striking when reading the different comments of the debate: most of us agree on 1- the need to have both adaptation and mitigation and 2- the need to have a critical view on what Gonzalo introduced as the risk of reinforcing technocratic patterns of control. But still, it seems to me that we are at half way of our thoughts on how we should consider adaptation and the meaning of the word when addressing the unpredictability of ecological and sociological systems. In this debate, we are naturally building a consensus and by doing so we run the risk to focus on the lowest common denominator of our respective thoughts. Aren’t we here reproducing the typical collaborative governance of those past decades which has led to the situation we criticize in this debate. For those of you interested in a more general analysis of this question, I can only recommend a recent publication of the Annual Review of Environment and Resources, herewith https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/10.1146/annurev-environ-011020-064352.
So how can we get out of this “deadlock”? I can only agree with Oleg view saying that we need to pluralize adaptation knowledge. Improving the mainstreaming can be done only if we have a clear objective of what we want to achieve. When adaptation is considered as the way to build a better wellbeing and well-living together, confronting expertise to local needs and reconsidering our normative approach should be a constant concern. This being said, another challenge will arise: understanding the challenges and the threats linked to adaptation beyond climate risks, including social and cultural aspects is not an innate gift. Pedagogical tools enabling local non expert citizens to understand and possibly criticize any proposed implementation will need to be thoroughly prepared.
Yky
Roberto Carlos Perez
 Apr 29, 2020
La mitigación al cambio climático es dónde se deben enfocar los mayores esfuerzos. La adaptación surge como una necesidad para afrontar en el presente los cambios que vamos viendo en el mundo, pero no se debe ver cómo la solución a futuro. Aún con todos los modelos actuales no se puede saber a ciencia cierta que tan drástico serán los cambios en el clima y en el ambiente, solo se está seguro de una cosa; mientras más sube la temperatura el calentamiento global se retroalimenta, mayor tasa de incendios que liberan más carbono a la atmósfera.
Las adaptaciones son necesarias para subsistir, pero la mitigación del cambio para una recuperación gradual del equilibrio del clima es crucial y urgente.
Online Debates
 Apr 30, 2020
Gracias Roberto. Veo que posicionas la adaptación como “un mal necesario” solo a corto plazo. Interesante.
Vicente Salas Salas
 Apr 30, 2020
Creo que la adaptación no es nuestra única opción, sin embargo debemos considerarla mientras se trabaja, obviamente en conjunto con las organizaciones especializadas en el tema, para contrarrestar el cambio climático. Desde un punto de vista personal, esto ultimo es posible si trabajamos en conjunto y buscamos las mejores vías para no afectar ningún entorno.
Tushar Pradhan
 Apr 30, 2020
Adaptation is one among the several ways human’s can tackle the impacts of Climate Change, disasters etc. I agree to this fact that it’s is one among the several solutions which can be a part of solution not the only one. As Charles Darwin theory of survival of fittest…the one who is having the access to resources and strength could survive but current situation which we face from carbon emissions, sea level rise, rising temperatures, to diseases outbreak (Ebola, Covid19) it’s the collective summations of our miss governance, excessive exploitation of natural resources. Having an technical solution driven by scientific acumen is indeed required but in our quest for trying to resolve critical problems we are still forgetting the prime role played by each and every entity. Blame game and shared responsibilites are greatly talked but we all know there are huge difference that exists in our societies which needed to be resolved before attempting to adapting for changes. I forsee adaptation is an opportunity to redress these gaps both technically, socially, economically and culturally. As there is no one method fits for all. There can’t be only one elixir for all problems but yes we do have new methods to resolve it part by part piece by piece. Adapting to the changing climte with sustainable strategies and diligently working upon the SDG 17 goals and 169 targets can add few steps of confidentely progressing towards an archiveable change. Harnessing the available skills, knowledge, institutions along with scientific inputs without being biased can go a long way in carving out amicable solutions for perennial problems.
Duvan
 Apr 30, 2020
Reading to Scoville et. al. and the recent comments, I realize the problem is not mainstreaming of adaptation into existing development logics, but unscrupulous mainstreaming of business as usual development logics, permeating and displaying through the speeches, funding, policies, projects or professionals supposed to be oriented for adaptation.
If words really matter, we must accept that what needs to be transformed is our Capitalism. Not for any ideological prevention, but for the factual evidence about its mistaken presumptions and catastrophic consequences.
Following this logic, mitigation and adaptation, if taking up seriously, are strategies directed to dismantle Capitalism. Passionate reactions from such system leaders and stratagems are quite natural, because power is aware of what this is all about.
Nominating with precision the “profound socio-economic transformation” that we need, my response is: Yes, adaptation is our best choice, because it implies a re-architecture of our human processes to cope with the complexity of the real. But watch out!. We don’t still know where exactly we are going, but our capitalism knows exactly where to remain, so it is capable to re-encode any of the well intentioned initiatives or agents that attack him, to exploit them for its own benefit.
Closing this comment, I wanted to translate some lyric lines from Luis Saez, my professor of contemporaneous philosophy at the University of Granada, who analyzing recent threatening of recession, exemplifies very graphically, in my opinion, the critic of the progress in the contemporary thinking, and the magnitude attributed to such force:
“…. It is known that we are all dumped to the merciless law of progress, which performs now its own power, blind, turbid and cruel, independent of the willingness of any individual or people on the Earth (…) progress is an engine upon which the human being goes to nowhere but the inhospitable. Riding this train nobody perceives its prodigious speed and definitive forcefulness … “
Online Debates
 Apr 30, 2020
Oleg Zurmuehlen argues that “It’s not the question whether or not adaptation is our best or only choice, we should rather have a debate on how to politicize and decolonize climate change adaptation in order to unlock its potential for a just socio-ecological transformation.” This is very pertinent here.
But what do we do when we decide to “politicize” adaptation?
Why is it necessary to “decolonize” adaptation, as opposed to using local frameworks?
Why is it better to adopt a “colonialized” framework and “decolonize” it later?
Isn’t it better to start from a local and culturally relevant framework in the first place?
If so, what are those local frameworks that we can use to deal with risk and climate change?
Ismael
 Apr 30, 2020
Sin duda, la adaptación debería ser una de nuestras prioridades, el cambio climático es irreversible, por lo que la mitigación (que tampoco de debe soslayar) será insuficiente, en virtud del crecimiento poblacional y el consumo, pero, la adaptación no debería solo circunscribirse solo a la adaptación humana, sino que se debe adaptarse, principalmente al la adaptación del planeta, en lo general , (darle al planeta los recursos para que se por si mismo haga frente al cambio climático), y en lo particular a la políticas publicas, la industria, la educación y a la conciencia social.
Faten Kikano
 May 1, 2020
The Earth… No… The Universe has been in constant change since it was ever created; life in all of its forms has been in constant adaptation to this change. Change and Adaptation have always been walking hand in hand, creating a balance that maintains life. If this balance is disrupted, if we stop adapting, we will perish indeed.
Therefore, adaptation is not a choice. It’s rather a condition to perpetrate life.
If it is so, then why is it relevant to ask whether adapting to climate change is a choice? Maybe the reason is that today, climate change is no longer a process resulting from fundamental interactions between the forces of nature; it is rather instigated by humans for political and economic purposes. As for adaptation, it is no longer a biological strategy for the subsistence of species. It is a tool in power relations between the most powerful, who often initiate change and control it, and the most vulnerable who are left with no other choice but to adapt. Adaptation has become the slogan that conceals the exploitation of naturel and economic resources at the expenses of the most fragile communities. For them, to adapt as best as that they can is their only choice; and sometimes, it’s hardly a choice.
Scholars, experts, and activists write, debate, give their voices to the voiceless and the marginalised, but their universe rarely coincides with that of decision makers, and the Statu quo remains. Until today… Today, an important ally has joined. With a worldwide pandemic that “doesn’t discriminate”, Nature retaliated against the relentless disruptions of humankind’s privileged minorities. For once, though we are not equally vulnerable to the change that our world is ongoing, whether poor or rich, we are left with no choice but to adapt.
So, we ask ourselves: could today’s crisis be a start for a change of paradigm and vision? Could it be a lesson for preventing “adaptation from being our only choice” and for working on mitigating the factors that are disrupting our world and deepening social, economic, and environmental inequalities between its inhabitants?
Yky
 May 1, 2020

In reply to:
Oleg Zurmuehlen argues that “It’s not the question whether or not adaptation is our best or only choice, we should rather have a debate on how to politicize and decolonize climate change adaptation in order to unlock its potential for a just socio-ecological transformation.” This is very pertinent here. But what do we do when we decide to “politicize” adaptation? Why is it necessary to “decolonize” adaptation, as opposed to using local frameworks? Why is it better to adopt a “colonialized” framework and “decolonize” it later? Isn’t it better to start from a local and culturally relevant framework in the first place? If so, what are those local frameworks that we can use to deal with risk and climate change?

As we said before, words are important. If by “politicizing adaptation”, we mean introducing a political dialectic in risk and climate change management, we could be in the position of assessing the fundamentals of a policy which would be consistent with what we are aiming to, showing the evidence of neoliberal and capitalistic abuses. Those abuses are so obvious that “politicizing adaptation” can be seen as a prerequisite to build a sustainable environment taking into account people vulnerabilities. By doing so, we would make the choice of an objective dialectic based on the values in which we believe. But the paradox is that it may not answer local expectations, when encompassing local cultures which are in essence purely subjective. See for example the publication of C. Holtorf, quoting Pinker, how cultural resilience is increased through cultural heritage going beyond the sole question of climate change, though relevant for our debate (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00438243.2018.1510340) “Evoking historical traditions, collective origins, joint ethnicity, a shared territory and a deeply felt allegiance to the ‘tribe’ of one’s own particular social group as opposed to other ones, cultural heritage fuels many conflicts, …the seemingly natural link between cultural behavior and a particular tribal identity essentializes cultures and places individual human beings in narrow, cultural boxes that are orientated towards the past and may be opposed to civil liberties, human rights and indeed to reasoning generally”.
If on one hand, implementing a post-colonial framework looks quite challenging in such cases, on another, we are all convinced that we cannot be satisfied with tribal behaviors which would oppose our deep believes in justice and human rights.
So again, how to get out of this deadlock? History may help and makes us humble. Should we say that “politicizing adaptation”, thereof rejecting perverse neoliberal and capitalistic abuses, would be one piece of a more general political choice for our society, why should we be in a position to succeed in improving the well-being of peoples? So far, all political ideologies have failed. What did we learn that would make us so sure that we can now implement a political framework bringing justice for everyone?
Unless “politicizing adaptation” is seen as a bottom-up movement, with citizens acting as a counter-power against all political abuses, ideological postures have always shown their limits. Local frameworks may look questionable as shown with the above example. But are we really able to understand them, seen through the prism of a western culture dominated by centuries of neoliberalism totally disconnected of ancient’s wisdom?

Duvan
 May 1, 2020

In reply to:
Oleg Zurmuehlen argues that “It’s not the question whether or not adaptation is our best or only choice, we should rather have a debate on how to politicize and decolonize climate change adaptation in order to unlock its potential for a just socio-ecological transformation.” This is very pertinent here. But what do we do when we decide to “politicize” adaptation? Why is it necessary to “decolonize” adaptation, as opposed to using local frameworks? Why is it better to adopt a “colonialized” framework and “decolonize” it later? Isn’t it better to start from a local and culturally relevant framework in the first place? If so, what are those local frameworks that we can use to deal with risk and climate change?

I acknowledge that the definition of adaptation, with regard to climate change, is more or less established in the international context
I am not sure if it is valid, for this debate, to problematize such delimitation of adaptation, but Ismael speaks of a planetary adaptation, Faten instead, links it to the evolutionary process, I also point to that vision in my last comment, when I refer to adaptation and mitigation of human processes beyond climate change to cope with the complexity of “the real”.
That is important because, in my view, the adaptation of the humankind should carry us to implement the fixes and developments that we need to overcome, not just the climate crisis, but the economical, ecological, migratory, military or terrorist one, advancing for more peaceful and sustainable coexistence in the planet.
Regarding the politicization and decolonization of adaptation, I am not an expert on political and economic theory, but I think, if there is any answer, it has to do with factors of production.
The idea is that politicization and decolonization cannot occur only in a discursive, abstract or ideological way, but must materialize, in the firm ground of democratization of land, labor, and capital.
Regarding land, I refer to discussions at the Netherlands Land Academy (Landac) and the strong correlation found among climate change, sustainability and land access. Democratizing land access through adaptation is politicizing adaptation.
Regarding the workforce, in my opinion, the greatest revolutionary potential is given by the feminist movement, which talks about care crisis, for example, care is taken as the backbone of a new economy (Carrazco, 2013), reproduction as a pillar of the so-called real economy (Ezquerra, 2011 ), Yayo Herrera is also a great reference about all this here in Spain.
Regarding capital, I have this much less referenced. However, in my practical experience, in the local context in Bogotá, a direct relationship has been sustained between the sustainability of projects, the construction of social capacities, and the emergence of adaptive properties linked to the deconcentration in distribution and execution of financial resources in spatial transformation projects.
On another scale, I also know, from spaces such as ICLEI or UCLG, the political tension that results because of local and regional stakeholders claiming for deconcentration in the execution of adaptation and mitigation funds and initiatives.
I perceive a powerful horizon by “mainstreaming”, into adaptation, those three great areas linked to the factors of production.

Online Debates
 May 1, 2020
Hi all. I hope you are coping with lockdowns and keeping safe   I am enjoying this debate! It is one of the most interesting ones we have had and also a very challenging one).
Yky seems to open the door for a different narrative, taking a prudent distance from tribal frameworks that might be problematic, but also refusing universalized ones. I would like to hear from Duvan, Ismael, Tushar, Roberto, Oleg, Faten, and others regarding the alternative frameworks we can use to analyze CC. Are we going to solve this puzzle?
Dag
 May 1, 2020
Greetings to everyone! For a productive (political) 1st of May, I would like to join the debate and set out my view upon the question: “But what do we do when we decide to ‘politicize’ adaptation?”
It seems, that we a sure that we want to uncover and value the politics and power in action around adaptation. We want to de-construct the hegemonic structures to overcome the neoliberal, capitalistic and colonialist framing and actual implementation practices to end up in a socio-environmental transformation to enable a better life for all.
Here, I want to raise these questions:
What follows from our (academic) analysis for any practical action?
How to build up counter-hegemony (even perhaps in a Gramscian sense)?
As Yky highlights, why should the mere politization of adaptation be successful for “improving the well-being of peoples?”
When it comes to the well-being of people, why should they refuse to follow capitalism when it offers a certain well-being? Of course, we all know, it is a false one, a well-being on credit of the environment and future generations. But still, often enough it is understandable if people choose this (short-time) well-being without considering it pitfalls as it eases life-circumstances for them and their families in that particular moment. What kind of offer can a counter-idea or -narrative provide in contrast to that?
On the other hand, as well, often local communities reject the offers from capitalism as they identify quite well that they cause long-term harm to their community, now and in future. And they endure the efforts that emerge around this choice. Sometimes, they are even fruitful when it helps them to empower, build up own sustainable structures and maintain them against all odds.
But should it be that we demand constant fight, opposition, stand and all that? Especially, when it can lead to possible problems and human right damages as Yky did point out regarding the excluding subjectivity of local groups of people? Is it okay, for instance, to let local self-governing develop when it goes along with a strengthening of patriarchal structures?
Also, Duvan has put it well together before as he commented: „We don’t still know where exactly we are going, but our capitalism knows exactly where to remain, so it is capable to re-encode any of the well intentioned initiatives or agents that attack him, to exploit them for its own benefit.“
Capitalism has the power, the methods, the structures, the institutions etc. and it does have them right in place and operation. It can rely on them and is still going great by assimilating all the disruptions and also discoveries and deconstructions of its power.
Should it be the act of small steps and slow transformation with the implied risk of having it all absorbed by the structures and mechanisms of capitalism? Or does it mean to start a “great revolution” that may fail as so many other ideologies?
I highly appreciate the contributions by Duvan onto the issues of materiality and production, work and labour as well as land and ownership. These are areas were adaptation and other political struggles become real and noticeable. As well, they form elementary building blocks of capitalistic structures. Beyond that, adaptation this way becomes broadened behind the narrative of ‘an annoying nature causing problems’. Moreover, I can fully recommend this article by Sovacool et al. (2015) on Political Economy and adaptation: https://www.nature.com/articles/nclimate2665
Lastly, just one raw thought that gathered in my mind: I assume, the answer for useful politization of adaptation might lie within all the local contexts themselves. Perhaps, it will mean to trust people, to accept complexity, to allow diversity, to listen to many knowledge concepts, to enable trial and error. If we do not yet know the best counter-story to capitalism, we maybe have to tell a lot of them.
Enough for today, sorry for the long-read. I am looking forward for what is up to follow!
MexGA
 May 1, 2020
En lo personal no creo que la “adaptación” al cambio climático sea la mejor solución. Claro, somos una especial adaptada y por ende es común esa relación, pero estamos en riesgo de flagelar si no hacemos algo que favorezca mas a nuestro medio ambiente, que a nosotros, por que es lo que siempre estamos acostumbrado a hacer, pensar en nosotros y complacer cada necesidad (innecesaria en muchas ocasiones), sin ver la realidad o el impacto que este provocara. Debemos de hacer un cambio radical, yo se que suena como utopía pero en ocasiones ese debe de ser nuestro objetivo.
La entronización, la educación ambiental, los convenios y leyes ambientales, las ong’s, tenemos instrumentos mejorar y cambiar el sistema. debemos dejar a un lado el egoísmo que nos corroe, el capitalismo que nos guía y la corrupción que abunda, nos queda poco tiempo ´para salvara el lugar en donde vivimos.
Combatir la industria textil, ya que es la industria que mas contamina sin ser castigada, aprovechándose de los medios tan fáciles de obtener; mano de obra barata y recursos naturales para sobre explotarlos, se deben de obligar a cumplir los parámetro establecidos, para así favorecer nuestro planeta, aplicando técnicas sustentables que ayuden a la población y a nuestro ecosistema.
Erradicar la pobreza, ampliar la igualdad y eliminar la sobre explotación de población empobrecida que solo busca empleo para subsistir y mayormente encuentra uno en donde abusan de su trabajo, no cuentan con seguridad laborar, ni de salud y esta de mas decirlo, que lo mas importante es el dinero que sacan de la producción que estos trabajadores y no su seguridad. Comúnmente llegan las industrias internacionales a establecerse en lugares pobre, por que llevaran trabajo y no serán castigados, como lo serian en su país, por desgracia estos lugareños los aceptan por que están desesperados en conseguir empleo para alimentar a sus familias, por ello aceptaran malos tratos y poca remuneración.
Todos estos temas son delicados, pero es la realidad en la que vivimos, realidad en donde el consumir y producir es mas importante que el vivir bien y claro esta que adaptarse es resignarse y en ocasiones salir de la zona de confort es demasiado complicado.
Debemos hacer un cambio desde la raíz, exigir nuestros derechos, obligar y obligarnos a cambiar y a dejar este ritmo de vida tan vil que llevamos, implementando educación ambiental desde preescolar hasta niveles superiores, el reciclaje, la eliminación de productos de un solo uso, ciudades sustentables, recursos naturales protegidos y la concientización a industrias transaccionales, gobierno y sociedad, para trabajar en conjunto y así realmente hacer un cambio, ya que, si hacemos daño al medio ambiente nos estamos haciendo daño a nosotros, puesto que, es un ciclo y en cualquier momento todo retornara, para bien o para mal.
Steffen Lajoie
 May 1, 2020
Thank you, friends, for this debate! Everyone is touching on the complexity in discussing and doing “adaptation to climate change”. I think about this a lot because I am working on my PhD thesis on urban adaptation in Yumbo, Colombia. But the more I work on adaptation as “concept” and adaptation as a “development practice” the word “adaptation” increasingly becomes inappropriate. This debate is tackling these same doubts.
First, let us note that ecological anthropologists put aside the concept in the 1970s because the term could not accommodate the complexities behind cultural changes that were never simply adjustments to the natural environment (see Fabinyi et al, 2016). “Adaptation to climate change” is making the same discovery. These words lead to a focus on natural hazard and away from political-economic realities, an argument that has been made for decades by political-ecologists (see Watts, 2015; Ribot, 2014). The term “adaptation” makes it near impossible to account for power and diversity because it insinuates an “imperative”. It suggests that nature determines human action. It does not. Humans do. Mobilizing adaptation as a concept is both biased and limiting.
Urban planners have had the same struggle with resilience and its “engineering” narrative that also leads one to understand the climate change problem as a climatic one and therefore looks to mitigate the natural threat via resilient infrastructure, or big A adaptations instead of the root causes. That said, small a adaptations are also most often a single sector technology fixes like rain water harvesting or agricultural irrigation. I argue for approaches that push for transformative processes as well as such technological strategies (see Davoudi et al, 2015; Revi et al, 2014; Ribot, 2014).
In my research in Yumbo, I have encountered many sticky spots that reveal adjustments to changing environmental hazards as nuanced by power, perception and access to resources. Responses are messy, not single sector pathways and they are the result of complex, imperfect often hidden power negotiations, that are multi-actor, and difficult to follow.
I agree that there is not a one-concept fits all solution, but rather each context must build off the foundation of existing knowledges. This means putting into question Northern theory and heeding the call for new narratives built on work and experiences in the Global South (see Duminy et al, ). This means engaging in community led adaptation that use participatory processes like co-production. They have best engaged in the political dimension that defines who gets what. Though these approaches remain limited in results and scale, are time-consuming, and struggle to be transformative, they are well worth building on (Archer et al, 2014; Kaika, 2017; Vale, 2014).
Climate change is the result of economic processes profiting countries in the Global North, and unevenly affecting people in the Global South. These uneven power dynamics are expressed on regional and local scales as well. To get to a justice narrative, transformation must be tackled. To do so, everyone needs to acknowledge and confront the unequal power distribution that is driving and benefiting from climate change and global poverty. This is a human problem that involves understanding diversity, personal interests, agency, social struggles and power. As social scientists concluded decades ago, adaptation as concept does not allow for that.
So perhaps it is less about whether we adapt to climate change, but how we adapt the existing practice of “Adaptation”.
These are the articles I referred to for interests sake:):

Archer, D., Almansi, F., Di Gregorio, M., Roberts, D., Sharma, D., & Syam, D. (2014). Moving towards inclusive urban adaptation: approaches to integrating community-based adaptation to climate change at city and national scale. Climate and Development, 6(4), 345–356. http://doi.org/10.1080/17565529.2014.918868.

Davoudi, S., Shaw, K., Haider, L. J., Quinlan, A. E., Peterson, G. D., Wilkinson, C., … Davoudi, S. (2012). Resilience: A Bridging Concept or a Dead End? “Reframing” Resilience: Challenges for Planning Theory and Practice Interacting Traps: Resilience Assessment of a Pasture Management System in Northern Afghanistan Urban Resilience: What Does it Mean in Planning Practice? Resilience as a Useful Concept for Climate Change Adaptation? The Politics of Resilience for Planning: A Cautionary Note. Planning Theory & Practice, 13(2), 299–333. http://doi.org/10.1080/14649357.2012.677124.

Duminy, J., Andreasen, J., Lerise, F., Odendaal, N., & Watson, V. (Eds.). (2014). Planning and the case study method in Africa: The planner in dirty shoes (1st ed.). London and New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Fabiny, M., Evans, L., & Foale, S. J. (2014). Social-ecological systems, social diversity, and power insights from anthropology and political ecology. Ecology and Society, 19(4): 28. http://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-07029-190428.

Kaika, M. (2017). ‘Don’t call me resilient again!’: the New Urban Agenda as immunology … or … what happens when communities refuse to be vaccinated with ‘smart cities’ and indicators. Environment and Urbanization, 29(1), 89–102. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956247816684763.

Olsson, L., Jerneck, A., Thoren, H., Persson, J., & O’Byrne, D. (2015). Why resilience is unappealing to social sciences. Sci. Adv., 1(4)(May), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1400217.

Revi, A., Satterthwaite, D., Aragón-Durand, F., Corfee-Morlot, J., Kiunsi, R. B. R., Pelling, M., … Sverdlik, A. (2014). Towards transformative adaptation in cities: the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment. Environment and Urbanization, 26(1), 11–28. http://doi.org/10.1177/0956247814523539.

Ribot, J. C. (2014). Cause and response: vulnerability and climate in the Anthropocene. Journal of Peasant Studies, 41(5), 667–705. http://doi.org/10.1080/03066150.2014.894911.

Vale, L. J. (2014). The politics of resilient cities: Whose resilience and whose city? Building Research and Information, 42(2), 191–201. https://doi.org/10.1080/09613218.2014.850602.

Watts, M. J. (2015). The origins of political ecology and the rebirth of adaptation as a form of thought. In T. Perreault, G. Bridge, & J. McCarthy (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Political Ecology (1st ed., pp. 19–50). London and New York: Routledge.

Carlos Alberto Lozada Villanueva
 May 2, 2020
La adaptación al cambio climático es una opción muy buena pero creo que debemos contribuir utilizando menos productos hechos a base de petróleo ya que estos tardan muchos años en degradarse y provocan mucho calor las industrias deben tomar conciencia, todos los desechos químicos contribuyen al cambio climático haciendo daño al aire, tierra, ríos, mares, selvas, así cómo también la tala de árboles provocan la erosión de cerros y montañas. Es una tristeza que él humano que se considera racional y pensante haga todo para destruir su propio habita. Gracias por este espació para expresar nuestro sentir sobre el cambio climático.
Oleg Zurmuehlen
 May 2, 2020
Thanks for this interesting debate and all these great insights from different perspectives. I absolutely agree with Duvan saying that “following this logic, mitigation and adaptation, if taking up seriously, are strategies directed to dismantle Capitalism”. I’m happy this debate developed in this way and I want to contribute my thoughts on the question of politicizing and decolonizing CCA as such anti-capitalist strategies and try to answer some of the questions Gonzalo brought up.
I once had an interesting talk with a fellow student in a creative qualitative methodologies course mostly attended by master students from the United Nations environmental risk and human security master program located in Bonn, Germany. This master brings together students from a diverse array of backgrounds like Costa Rica, Nigeria or Uzbekistan. I talked to a guy from Pakistan. I was doing small talk basically asking him why he decided to come to Germany and how he adapts to the new sociality here. Suddenly, I asked myself why does he come to Germany to study risk management? Isn’t Pakistan especially prone to earthquakes and climate change related risks? Why is he studying in Germany where none of these risks are apparent (yet)? I asked him this question and he shrugged his shoulders. After seriously thinking this through, he said that the scientific credibility and reputation, the necessary resources, aid institutions and other valuable contacts for risk management are found in Germany and not in Pakistan.
In this moment I had a clear view of the ‘abyssal line’ identified by the sociologist Boaventoura De Sousa Santos (2018). This line is drawn by a persistent coloniality in institutional knowledge, ways of representation and power structures. Knowledge created by Western academia is mostly seen as free from being embedded in a specific sociality, it appears to be objective and thus derives a certain authority. It appears to carry a (non-experiential) truth that is thought to be valid in every local context. By this, it creates the ‘abyssal line’ dividing Western expert knowledge from other knowledge systems that might rather be experiential, oral and lived performatively. Such epistemologies mostly developed by Indigenous peoples and activists of the Americas, Africa and Oceania in their respective struggles were and are systematically excluded from Western scientific knowledge production.
Against this backdrop, politicizing and decolonizing climate change adaptation should mean not only crossing the ‘abyssal line’ and including other knowledges, but also rethinking the fundamental epistemologies and ontologies behind the knowledge production that is feeding adaptation schemes.
About Epistemologies
The sociologist Boaventoura de Sousa Santos (2018) calls for ‘epistemologies of the South’ (EoS) that are emerging out of struggles against oppression by colonialist, capitalist and patriarchist power relations. These knowledges are ‘produced by absent subjects, subjects deemed incapable of producing valid knowledge due to their subhuman condition or nature’ (De Sousa Santos 2018: 2) and thus ‘incapable of representing the world as their own in their own terms’ (De Sousa Santos 2018: 8). This is regarding not only human beings that are oppressed by colonial power structures, but nonhuman beings as well. While the main objective of the EoS is the decolonization of knowledge – although without replacing the epistemologies of the North constituting Western knowledge production – it seeks an ‘ecology of knowledge’ that recognizes different ways of knowing and strengthens social struggles against oppression and domination. By this, EoS facilitate a pluriversality that promotes a scientific knowledge production based on written and oral, lived and ancestral knowledges.
Ultimately, the decisive tools of a decolonization of knowledge are non-extractivist research methodologies. Based on current mainstream methodologies of the social sciences, information is extracted from research objects ‘like mining industries extract minerals and oil from nature’ (De Sousa Santos 2018: 14). A decolonial methodology requires cooperation between subjects instead of a subject/object relation that is unilateral. Such a research methodology is yet to be thoroughly produced facing obstacles like authorship, the validating of knowledges that are based on multiple/pluralist ontologies (cf. Blaser 2014, Viveiros de Castro 1998, 2004) or the imperative of becoming part of the struggle.
Still, there is a danger of appropriating knowledge. A climate change adaptation scheme that is built from the ecology of knowledge as proposed can still emerge ‘as if ‘originally produced’ by the global North, whereas the peoples of the global South appear as if they simply provided the inputs and experiences that are […] refashioned as sophisticated theories’ (De Sousa Santos 2018: 130). Therefore, it has to be for the social struggle to determine the specific set of knowledges and to denominate the scheme based on this ecology of knowledge. Work that is grounded in epistemologies of the South and that brings together knowledge from anti-colonial struggles on their own terms with Western knowledge without trying to westernize the ‘southern’ thought could be regarded as a first step to decolonization, since ‘decolonizing entails decolonizing the knowledge of the colonized as much as the knowledge of the colonizer’ (De Sousa Santos 2018: 14).
As Dag rightly said in a recent comment here: “the answer for useful politization of adaptation might lie within all the local contexts themselves”.
About Ontologies
‘Carving out a space to listen is also carving out a space to tell another story to (and about) ourselves, to engage in other kinds of worlding that might be more conducive to a coexistence based on recognizing conflicts rather than brushing them off as irrelevant or nonexistent’ (Blaser 2013: 559).Since the ‘ontological turn’ in social sciences rattled the very foundation of modernity hegemonic in Western knowledge production – the assumption based on the rationale of enlightenment that there exists one distinct reality – the project of ‘political ontology’ stepped up to dismantle this foundation once and for all. Based on the idea that difference is not just an expression of different cultures but rather of different realities, a political ontology recognizes multiple ontologies. The anthropologist Mario Blaser (2013) extends the narrow meaning of ontology from the assumption of ‘what exists’ further to a ‘way of worlding, a form of enacting a reality’ (Blaser 2013: 551), thereby acknowledging a livingness of the world, that is defying modernist dualisms like human/non-human and nature/culture. He refers to them as ‘stories in spite of Europe, that is, stories that are not easily brought into the fold of modern categories’ (Blaser 2013: 548).
This controversially discussed ontological stance (cf. Viveiros de Castro 2004, Halbmeyer 2012, Graeber 2015) elaborates on Indigenous (or better: the nongeographical Southern) strands of knowledge that are radically differing from Western knowledge in the way that they are based on a multiplicity of worlds animated in different ways. This very multiplicity enables ontological conflicts, so to say conflicts between different realities or more precisely differently storied performances of ‘socio-material worlds as always-emergent heterogeneous assemblages of humans and more-than-humans’ (Blaser 2014: 50). Think for example of the Amazon rainforest: Building a hydroelectrical dam means a collision of ontological assumptions about the rainforest between local indigenous realities (animate forest as cultural space) and transnational institutional realities (inanimate forest as natural space). By recognizing and incorporating the pluriverse ways of being, political ontologies take the lived knowledges of non-western struggles against colonial, capitalist and patriarchal power structures seriously and therefore value the absent worlds, which the epistemologies of the South aim to render visible. These are exactly the knowledges that need to feed into the climate change adaptation practice.
I am aware that this is only a tiny fraction of what needs to be done in order for adaptation to be transformative. Other issues also need to be tackled, especially the financial framework of climate change adaptation. Money needs to be channeled from the Global North to the South into the right hands without any obligation and dependencies in order to free the resources locally (especially for long-term measures like education) and not make students from Pakistan study earthquakes and climate change risks in Germany.
 Yky
 May 4, 2020
Dear All,
We all share the same objectives but we differ by the means. Some approaches are obviously based on a valuable experience aiming to production and capital reassessment. This experience translates into a fully acceptable framework, which resonates with Marxist principles, aiming to stop seeing people deprived by neoliberal abuses. Others have a more universal approach prioritizing what could be seen as a “universal truth” prioritizing humanity well-being independently of the political framework. On my side, as you noticed, I am more in favor of citizen counter powers which would find their justification in a democratic disruptive activism.
But there is one point more which should be considered and I am not sure that this was discussed so far. One thing on which we will probably all agree is the need to implement efficiently the new paradigm we are aiming for. Oleg mentioned how a Pakistani studying environmental risks perceived the German course “credibility” and speaks of the abyssal line created by our persistent coloniality in institutional knowledge. This question of perception is key: a review published by I. Ruiz & Al. on how public perception can either facilitate or hinder climate policies implementation found no less than 33 different drivers that could influence climate change perceptions. Those 33 drivers were evaluated in 64 studies showing a patchwork of different perceptions on top of “change weather”
(https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340872291_Climate_change_perception_Driving_forces_and_their_interactions).
So how can we make sure of the consistency between the means we propose and the way different social groups perceive climate change and more generally their perception to rebalance the perverse effects of capitalism?
Whatever the means, the prerequisite to build a better world will always be the citizens’ acceptance level to change the paradigm they have been used to for so many years. Understanding the surrounding threats is not an innate gift and leaving its comfort zone is never easy. But the stakes are too high to neglect the chances of success when building a more sustainable world. Education, dialogical pedagogy, critical thinking and citizen empowerment may well be the artefacts of our post-colonial world but they are the unavoidable tools to manage in so many different cultural/ social environments a new sense of adaptation in a democratic way.
Have a nice day,
Yky
Online Debates
 May 4, 2020
Thank you all for these fantastic arguments.
Most of you find adaptation too problematic. But should we throw the baby out with the bathwater? When political deadlock makes radical transformation almost impossible, is there a way of “fixing” adaptation to facilitate consensus and (imperfectly) align conflicting political agendas towards disaster risk reduction?
(Now that tendencies have changed in our votes, I am trying to see whether we are missing something on the other side of the argument)
Juan Sebastian Canavera Herrera
 May 4, 2020
Dear all, thanks very much for your comments. I am sorry I haven’t replied in some days.
As our moderator says, it seems that most of the participants find adaptation as a concept too problematic. I find myself this position very problematic and quoting our moderator I feel that it would be wrong to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
I feel that in order to solve conflicts, the conversation must establish what are the facts everyone can agree on. In this case, I think we can all agree that climate change is happening and, as demonstrated by the IPCC in their special report of 2018, we will inevitably experience some kind of change in weather patterns due to the GHGs already in the atmosphere. Therefore, there is a need to adapt to all these new circumstances if we want to survive as a species.This answers, then, the original question of the debate and shows for me and others in the debate that there is no actual choice in terms of adaptation. We need to do it. Then the question has transformed in selecting which type of adaptation we want to implement.
I perceive that most of the participants have a humanities background. I am a civil engineer who has been investigating the adaptation of civil infrastructure to climate change in Bogotá, Colombia. I can understand the need for politicizing adaptation, but I also understand that there is a need to solve technical and practical issues regarding how to adapt. I feel that the debate and the positions of most participants are pointing towards looking at the problem as an exclusively political one. I feel that this is as problematic as the criticized technocratic perspectives of adaptation by many in this debate. Adaptation should not be seen as an exclusive political problem neither as an exclusive techno-scientific one. It should be understood as a socio-technical problem. I believe that we can only “fix” adaptation if we take this perspective.
Oleg Zurmuehlen
 May 4, 2020
I definitely share your worries, Gonzalo and Juan, political negotiation takes time and we, as human species, are already lacking time in our efforts to adapt to climate change. That’s precisely because we are stuck in our way of thinking and acting, especially in economical terms. This is our deadlock, in my opinion. However, I don’t think that anyone arguing for a politicization is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Politicization, at best, works towards long-term efficiency of climate change adaptation. It starts with the process of choosing which technology to use for adaptation. Politicization is inextricably entwined with worrying about techno-scientific issues of adaptation. I do agree with Juan, that adaptation is a socio-technical problem, and I disagree with separating politics and technology from each other. Technologies are political. Am I installing a hydro-electrical dam to ensure intensive irrigation in a drought-riddled monoculture landscape (displacing local communities and destroying local ecosystems) or do I choose to transform this monoculture landscape by minimizing the amount of water it consumes (e.g. by shifting to the technology of regenerative agriculture). We need to change our modern definition of technologies and include for example seemingly non-modern ones like regenerative agriculture as sophisticated technologies. This, indeed, is the aim of politicizing adaptation, including non-modernist technologies into the set of technologies presented to the decision maker, as the political is fed by diversifying choices. Politicizing does not mean the business of politics pursued just by politicians, it rather means having debates like ours and exchanging arguments, while also making aware of power structures behind those arguments. This process will inevitably educate towards sustainable long-term choices, because this is the more responsible thing to do in our current age of an impending disaster that will stay with us for generations to come.
Deborah Harford
 May 5, 2020

In reply to:
I am based in Bangladesh and work on local level adaptation with the most vulnerable communities in some of the most Vulnerable Countries. For me the question I have is who is being included in the word “we”? If it is polluters living in countries that are the biggest historical emitters of green house gases then they certainly don’t think adaptation is a priority as they think (wrongly as it happens) that they won’t be negatively impacted by climate change. However for the hundreds of millions of poor and vulnerable people living (mostly) in the poorer developing countries, adaptation is absolutely essential. It would help to know which “we” you include yourselves in?

Dear Saleem, Thanks for this. I hope you saw that I referred to your inspiring work in Bangladesh in my opening comment! Many people in Canada are really worried about climate impacts and are working hard on domestic adaptation – there were 65,000 people displaced by wildfires in my province (BC) in 2017, and flooding and Arctic melt are having serious impacts on vulnerable and not-so-vulnerable people and locations, just to give a few examples. But one of the things that worries me most is the reluctance to connect this awareness of risk and the need for adaptation with emissions reduction in Europe and North America. This is where the moral imperative for the big emitters must hit home, and could perhaps be a useful co-benefit of the growing awareness of climate risk. The challenge is partly that adaptation is often such a localized activity that it can be hard to persuade both practitioners and decision-makers to look at the big picture. In response to this problem, we are advancing the concept of “low carbon resilience” to reframe adaptation as a systemic change approach that includes emissions reduction and other key priorities. We keep trying!
Thank you as always for your inspirational leadership on adaptation.
Warm regards,
Deborah

Yky
 May 5, 2020
Dear All,
Is there a way of “fixing” adaptation despite political deadlocks? And why is it so hard to implement fairer CCA interventions, asks Silja. Reading all the comments of this debate, the majority agrees with the fact that climate change adaptation cannot just be limited to environment but should take into account social and justice issues. Consequently our thinking is conceptualized to such an extent that I (as Oleg?) wonder if we are not ourselves building deadlocks without fully realizing it. Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that we should oversimplify. What I say is that we should always contextualize the concept to give it a chance to be operationalized. So let’s give a chance to bottom up processes of (re)appropriation! They could help unlocking when politicians involved themselves in untenable positions. Let’s take the covid 19 consequences as an example (not very original I admit). Personally, I do not believe in a post covid world that would reflect a sudden anti-thesis of the pre covid world. But I do believe in trends that can be exacerbated by crisis. The entire question is of course to know in which direction they will go. Amongst the different trends that have developed these past years, the laudable role of nature, in particular in urban areas, has gained importance. I am not speaking here of greening the cities with their obvious” greenwashing” consequences. Nor of Nature Based Solutions or even Urban Ecosystem Services, though the latter provides more insight on the relevance of green infrastructures. But about the intertwined relations between Nature and what is commonly called the Sense of Place. Sense of Place can be defined as the way individuals are connected to a place. More than the place itself, what matters here are the appropriation process and its dynamics building the connections between people and their living environment. N. Frantzeskaki & Al. (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11625-018-0562-5) describe three key phenomena linking to the sense of place, as follows: -1 The way experiments contribute to social relations and networks between people and the place -2 The way narratives introduce a transformative vision -3 The symbolic meaning of the place leading to a sense of belonging. Such process enlarges the scope from what could appear a sole dedicated environment question to a much larger one encompassing social adaptation. All this can be feasible at another condition: building the link between experts who will lead the project and local citizens. But this is another story…
Any experiences of unlocking deadlocks in the audience?
Have a nice day,
Yky
Online Debates
 May 5, 2020
Thank you for these interesting comments. It seems that we are reaching a consensus around the idea that “Adaptation should not be seen as an exclusive political problem neither as an exclusive techno-scientific one.” We need to recognize that “Technologies are political,” as Oleg argues. Interesting!
Steffen Lajoie
 May 6, 2020
Hi everyone, thanks again for this excellent discussion!
I am not so sure I see a consensus Gonzalo! In fact, the contrary. This is the kind difficulty (opportunity!) with bridging concepts – concepts that are used across disciplines or communities of practice. For Juan, adaptation remains something entirely different than it does for many others. Resilience leads to the illusion that various actors are talking about the same thing because they use the same words, when in fact there is significant divergence. Most comments seem to say “adaptation is ok, if…”. And it is the “if” part that is pretty important. Unfortunately, most actors involved in the COP debates don’t get the social justice and local empowerment narratives that many people in this debate agree on; and community-led practices, while great, get more lip-service than funding. The “if” part seems to me to be whether climate change actors will/can incorporate learning from social theory, political-ecology and urban and development practice developed over the past 50 years.
If, at the onset, an intervention is defined as “adaptation” and then a participatory process is launched, then the problem and priority is pre-defined. Everyone has pointed out that vulnerability to climate change is driven by socio-political inequalities, and so if a project or programme is framed as a climate change one, it will be hard for participants to think beyond the environment. It is working backwards. This is what is meant by deterministic. The words, as Ben Wisner pointed out, count, they will determine the outcome.
In my research, I opened up the framing by allowing for adaptation to apply to adjustments to risks beyond environmental ones, and to understanding how different individuals and groups experience and see risks – how their interests converge and compete. Though avalanches, flash flooding and heat waves are having an immediate impact on the community, inhabitants talked more about gang violence, economic difficulties, corruption and land tenure security. Further, accessing the resources to deal with these problems demands going through a gauntlet of barriers established by a clientelist governance system. This is a specific example, and hopefully gives an idea about how allowing the context to express itself beyond a climate change paradigm leads to different interventions, and different ways of working.
Jesse Ribot argues to work on vulnerability first, adaptation after (2014). Others push for asking the right questions in the right order: what is going on in the existing context; then, how is climate change affecting this context (Ensor et al, 2019). These can still lead to traditional solutions like retention walls, permeable roads and rainwater harvesting, but it opens space for getting at these through new governance platforms and partnerships, youth support groups, land tenure programmes, or psychosocial supports for displaced people. It is easier to incorporate a response to environmental hazard into the weave of risks than to introduce the weave of risks and responses into an environmental solution. It is the difference between coping and transformation.

Ziervogel, G., Pelling, M., Cartwright, A., Chu, E., Deshpande, T., Harris, L., … & Pasquini, L. (2017). Inserting rights and justice into urban resilience: a focus on everyday risk. Environment and Urbanization, 29(1), 123-138.

Ensor, J. E., Wennström, P., Bhatterai, A., Nightingale, A. J., Eriksen, S., & Sillmann, J. (2019). Asking the right questions in adaptation research and practice: Seeing beyond climate impacts in rural Nepal. Environmental science & policy, 94, 227-236.

Ribot, J. (2014). Cause and response: vulnerability and climate in the Anthropocene. Journal of Peasant Studies, 41(5), 667-705.

N. Bunzli
 May 6, 2020
Answering to the question “Is adapting to climate change (really) our best choice?” represents the embodiment of what I have been struggling with in the last two years while working on the subject for my master’s thesis. In my opinion, the core of the challenge when discussing this matter is that the concept of “Adaptation” (capital A) does not seem to always match with what “adaptation” (lowercase a) means, in the common sense of the word.
There lies the biggest source of possible misunderstandings (and headaches for young and naive researchers like me): the institutions and experts who have adopted the concept of “Adaptation” assimilate it to aiming for concrete “adaptation,” while the people who critics the notion generally target the material and practical consequences of the concept. The two opening statements and many comments below perfectly represented that “understanding gap” where, while discussing the same subject, the two proposed realities barely overlap.
On the one hand, in the purest and simplest sense, adaptation seems indeed unavoidable since most indicators point to the fact that we have already crossed a point of no-return; climate changes will not only result in drastic consequences tomorrow, the phenomenon already started yesterday. Humankind therefore has to adapt to a new paradigm. In truth, it seems plausible and probable that humans would work toward adaptation whether it was conceptualized or not. The difference would lie in how deliberate it would be. Therefore, “Adaptation” clearly points toward a voluntary, coherent and orderly transition that opposes a “natural adaptation” forced by circumstances and, therefore, marked by improvisation in a chaotic setting.
On the other hand, the very idea that “Adaptation” really leads to adaptation is not as certain as it could or should be. I will not repeat the critics of Ms. Klepp, or of others in the comments, toward the unethical and unjust consequences of “Adaptation”, particularly considering that it was not the focal point of my own research. But, because I studied the municipal “Adaptation” plans of the four Quebec (Canada) cities that have adopted one, I hope to offer some clues to understand how the application of the concept in a local western setting indeed lead to mixed results.
In that context, I discovered that, rather than to really offer a deeply deliberate and proactive actions toward adaptation, the “Adaptation” ideal generally resulted in an effort to either repair errors of the past or implement current “good practices”. An example of the former is how local governments are (re)discovering the importance of plants and trees, either to stabilize lakes’ shores, lower air pollution, manage water runoffs, offer shades or cool neighborhood. An example of the former is how most major municipalities are adopting measures to reduce energy consumption during the summer, for instance through the installation of white roofs on municipal buildings.
While those measures are extremely pertinent, they do necessarily contribute to adapting the society to climate change. After all, since the 1970, ecologists and biologists had warned us of how choking everything under seas of cement, pavement and other mineral extravaganzas, while using resources and energy without constraints, would have dire consequences. Finally starting to care for our environment is important and could lower the severity of how climate change will affect us, but it is not really about facing this new and complex paradigm.
I would argue that the current efforts are not adequate, considering that they do not represent a profound shift in the temporal understanding of how a territory must be managed to protect its populations and ecosystems in a context of climate change. The concept of “Adaptation” therefore does not really succeed at offering stronger and more coherent ways toward the safety and stability of our society. In fact, despite its promises, the concept does not seem to reach beyond the aims of this “natural adaptation” that would have happened anyway, without scholars and experts.
In conclusion, adapting to this new reality is important, but it is definitely not the best choice, in the sense that we cannot choose adaptation without mitigation and transformation. After all, if our adaptation could mean the survival of the specie, the efforts of mitigation and transformation could be the best ways for our societies not only to stay stable, but to thrive in a persistent and respectful integration of humankind within its ecosystems. 
Online Debates
 May 6, 2020
Steffen is right. In similar projects we are conducting in Latin America we are finding that residents are more concerned about daily struggles (crime, violence, unemployement, food insecurity, etc.) than heat waves, sea level rise, ice melting, or floods. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rv2OVxa57KE.
In my defense: I didn’t mean that we have a consensus in all aspects of adaptation (this debate is proof of that). But just in the importance of simultaneously considering non-technical and socio-political considerations.
Duvan
 May 7, 2020
The debate moves into consensus regarding the civilizing relevance of adaptation, its potential as a driver of critical narratives and as catalyst for necessary fixes and transformations.
Beyond our mere survival as a species, almost everyone advocates for carry out the necessary towards a common future which inevitably implies solving structural political aspects, linked to environmental justice.
In my opinion, SIlja gives an appropriate illustration on the scope of CCA, when she defines it “as a complex set of narratives and practices” and acknowledges that “adaptation as a messy, challenging social process”.
This conception embraces the dominant CCA definitions and practices, as well as those that have different degrees of influence, those that are minority or intentionally marginalized, or those that emerge and are capable of provoking movements and transformations.
As a practitioner in this matter, I feel my horizon well invoked by YkY, when he proposes that “we need to give this concept a chance to be operationalized.” That is the corresponding action in the game of narratives with unsuspected results but transformative possibilities that Silja illustrates. There is where, as Deborah says, biases and flaws in how adaptation is done may be addressed.
Stephen referred in his comment to Zievogel (2017). I could not find the exact quotation but the manuscript presents the concept of “negotiated resilience”, which I believe that accounts for such scenario of confluences and divergences of narratives, in their terms “an arena to discursively interrogate and negotiate the interests, values and experiences of diverse interests” (Zievogel, 2017,131).
Finally, I would like to thank Dag for the feedback regarding the general idea that I launched about the impact of adaptation on the redistribution of production factors. Just after me, Gonzalo raised a question about alternative frameworks we can use to analyze CC. A possible contestation would be those called by Dag “elementary building blocks of capitalistic structures”. I´d be happy to go further about them as potential areas for direct operation in the adaptation action. The literature suggested was welcomed as would be any additional insights on this. 
Juan Sebastian Canavera Herrera
 May 7, 2020
I would like to start by thanking Gonzalo for defending and promoting the point I was making in my previous intervention about the importance of simultaneously considering non-technical and socio-political considerations when discussing adaptation.
I find Steffen’s intervention very interesting as what he suggests is that focusing on adaptation pre-defines the objectives of interventions towards the environmental and other aspects of development (at the top of priorities for communities as shown by his examples and Gonzalo’s) tend to be left behind by those advocating for adaptation in those communities. He suggests reversing the order on which things are done and think first of development and then add the dimension of climate change. This relationship between adaptation and development continues to be passionately debated in the academic literature, but one of the interpretations I have found more interesting is that of “the adaptation continuum” developed by Anne Hammill and Heather McGray (https://www.iisd.org/story/is-it-adaptation-or-development/). They state that development and adaptation are in the same continuum and should not be seen as competing activities. They believe that activities related to development and adaptation have methodological and operational similarities and the only thing differentiating them is the degree of inclusion of climate risk considerations. From this, we should then hopefully be able to see adaptation actions as another type of activity in development efforts and not as separate or antagonistic activities.
Mr Bunzli talks about how adaptation is being used in the practice to fix past errors or to implement “good practices”. I think his point continues to prove what others in this debate have already shown and it is how adaptation has not yet being implemented at a transformational scale in most practical examples. I would like to know from others in this debate what they think is necessary to achieve transformational effects through adaptation. I think is necessary to keep in mind that transformation is not always the desired thing and also we need to think what kind of transformations we want to implement because there is always the risk of maladaptation. Also, transformations require substantial use of resources and they might not be always be available. So what do we do in those cases?
Finally, I am glad to see that Yky and Duvan are also focusing on the operationalisation of adaptation. I think this is where the challenges still persist. I would like to hear more about what are the ways in which we can implement adaptation more effectively.
Steffen Lajoie
 May 7, 2020
Excellent comments everyone, thank you. Okay Gonzalo, I will join your consensus!
My research began when there was an increased interest in adapation to climate change in popular Barrio’s in Bogota during Petro’s mayoralty. This was one of his flagship programmes that integrated some interesting and transformative methods such as participatory budgeting (see Zeiderman, 2016). Since this early interest, adaptation continues to find itself within this tricky muddle we have been discussion. Perhaps for the best – perhaps this is what transformation looks like.
In Cali, in contrast to the Bogota example, the flagship adaptation project funded under the National Adaptation Plan is Plan Jarillon. A mega-infrastructure project addressing the aging dyke along the river Cauca protecting millions of inhabitants from regular and major flooding. One should rightly ask why so many people live in a flood zone in the first place. Given the existing reality, any solution would be controversial. This one involved relocating about 8000 families living informally on and near the dyke. For some of these families, it was an opportunity to gain title of an apartment and for others, the loss of home and livelihood. Similar to Bunzli’s example, this “adaptation” was looking to upgrade old infrastructure, that would indeed be challenged by the heavier rains linked to climate change. On the other hand, it leaves millions living on the flood behind the dyke and locks the city into the old pattern of controlling nature and addressing exposure to hazard over the socio-political causes of vulnerability.
This example touches on three critical operational challenges 1. working within the limits/reality of existing contexts, governance systems and governments 2. working betwixt the competing interests and priorities of community members and other actors; and 3. bringing social justice into practice. Both are political and refer back to the transformation argument (incremental change is also possible – see Pelling et al, 2015). In the plan Jarillon case, I got to speak members of the large, multi-disciplinary project team. This is their first experience working on a project that took the communities well-being so seriously and massive efforts were made to improve during the project. The engineering project is old hat, but the social side produces new institutional knowledge and new ways of working. This is key, because the second point is that vulnerability and interests are differentiated. There is a push for a feminist adaptation that acknowledges the intersectional nature of identity and how central that is to individual priorities and local power dynamics see (Tschakert, 2012). I think working in this complexity and trying out different methodologies is part of a transformative process that is indeed long term. Plan Jarillon did not achieve justice for many of the relocated families, but they sure did try. As Gonzalo confirmed, many other priorities come up if you ask open questions. In my research, the proposed solutions were often contradictory and competing – sometimes threatening the interests and well-being of other community members. An even trickier environment to in which to find consensus. “Adaptation” needs to improve, and so do the people working on it ! Thanks everyone for taking it a step forward, I am looking forward to closing remarks! Cheers.

More interesting articles:
Pelling, M., O’Brien, K., & Matyas, D. (2015). Adaptation and transformation. Climatic Change, 133(1), 113-127.

Tschakert, P. (2012). From impacts to embodied experiences: tracing political ecology in climate change research. Geografisk Tidsskrift-Danish Journal of Geography, 112(2), 144-158

Zeiderman, A. (2016). Adaptive publics: building climate constituencies in Bogotá. Public Culture, 28(2 (79)), 389-413.

Juan Sebastian Canavera Herrera
 May 8, 2020

In reply to:
Excellent comments everyone, thank you. Okay Gonzalo, I will join your consensus! My research began when there was an increased interest in adapation to climate change in popular Barrio’s in Bogota during Petro’s mayoralty. This was one of his flagship programmes that integrated some interesting and transformative methods such as participatory budgeting (see Zeiderman, 2016). Since this early interest, adaptation continues to find itself within this tricky muddle we have been discussion. Perhaps for the best – perhaps this is what transformation looks like. In Cali, in contrast to the Bogota example, the flagship adaptation project funded under the National Adaptation Plan is Plan Jarillon. A mega-infrastructure project addressing the aging dyke along the river Cauca protecting millions of inhabitants from regular and major flooding. One should rightly ask why so many people live in a flood zone in the first place. Given the existing reality, any solution would be controversial. This one involved relocating about 8000 families living informally on and near the dyke. For some of these families, it was an opportunity to gain title of an apartment and for others, the loss of home and livelihood. Similar to Bunzli’s example, this “adaptation” was looking to upgrade old infrastructure, that would indeed be challenged by the heavier rains linked to climate change. On the other hand, it leaves millions living on the flood behind the dyke and locks the city into the old pattern of controlling nature and addressing exposure to hazard over the socio-political causes of vulnerability. This example touches on three critical operational challenges 1. working within the limits/reality of existing contexts, governance systems and governments 2. working betwixt the competing interests and priorities of community members and other actors; and 3. bringing social justice into practice. Both are political and refer back to the transformation argument (incremental change is also possible – see Pelling et al, 2015). In the plan Jarillon case, I got to speak members of the large, multi-disciplinary project team. This is their first experience working on a project that took the communities well-being so seriously and massive efforts were made to improve during the project. The engineering project is old hat, but the social side produces new institutional knowledge and new ways of working. This is key, because the second point is that vulnerability and interests are differentiated. There is a push for a feminist adaptation that acknowledges the intersectional nature of identity and how central that is to individual priorities and local power dynamics see (Tschakert, 2012). I think working in this complexity and trying out different methodologies is part of a transformative process that is indeed long term. Plan Jarillon did not achieve justice for many of the relocated families, but they sure did try. As Gonzalo confirmed, many other priorities come up if you ask open questions. In my research, the proposed solutions were often contradictory and competing – sometimes threatening the interests and well-being of other community members. An even trickier environment to in which to find consensus. “Adaptation” needs to improve, and so do the people working on it ! Thanks everyone for taking it a step forward, I am looking forward to closing remarks! Cheers. More interesting articles: Pelling, M., O’Brien, K., & Matyas, D. (2015). Adaptation and transformation. Climatic Change, 133(1), 113-127. Tschakert, P. (2012). From impacts to embodied experiences: tracing political ecology in climate change research. Geografisk Tidsskrift-Danish Journal of Geography, 112(2), 144-158 Zeiderman, A. (2016). Adaptive publics: building climate constituencies in Bogotá. Public Culture, 28(2 (79)), 389-413.
Thanks Steffen for your inputs about adaptation in Colombia. Interestingly enough in my PhD I did a case study of adaptation planning of urban road infrastructure in Bogotá, Colombia. If you are interested in having a more detailed look at my thesis you can find it here: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/303264.

In my research, I identified several barriers to effective adaptation in the city and the predominant factors behind those barriers were related to the institutional environment in the city. Although there were some advances during the government of Mayor Gustavo Petro, Bogotá still has very rigid institutional arrangements that limit how much adaptation can be implemented. Additionally, the risk management and climate change authority in the city, IDIGER, has no executive power and its function is limited to being just an advisor of other organisations in the city. This keeps the know-how about adaptation external to the organisations that need to act upon it. Another interesting observation that can be done in Bogotá is how quickly the political focus on adaptation changed when Enrique Peñalosa became mayor of Bogotá in 2016. This demonstrated for me that there are strong political interpretations of climate risk that end up limiting the technical decisions in the city.
Based on this I would add an additional operational challenge to the ones expressed by Steffen. There is also the challenge of working with stakeholders (both in the community and in government) that are uneducated in adaptation and climate change. This limits how much priority is given to the topic and how much capacity communities and organisations have to act upon the challenge of climate change. I think that we as experts need to also think about how to continue educating the public in these topics if we truly want to achieve transformation through our efforts.
Like Steffen, I am looking forward to reading the closing remarks. And I thank everyone for their insights during this debate.

Duvan
 May 8, 2020
Almost concluding this space, I think it is worth to persist in the question about the politics of adaptation, which has been transversal to the debate.
There is no doubt about the need and convenience to solve technological challenges to optimize social metabolism (to put it in generic), but an evident asymmetry exists between the human capacity to promote technical innovations and the human capacity to articulate collective actions, on different scales.
Humankind has reached with modernity the deployment of a planetary incidence, what has allowed us as a species to access the global administration of material and energy resources, but we certainly find it extremely difficult to address the conflicts among our multiple subjectivities. Hence, it is very necessary to go deeper, first of all, in the awareness and understanding of this gap, as well as in the elaboration of mechanisms to solve it.
From this perspective, reflective processes on adaptation subjectivities that proliferate in recent literature play a role: Resilience for whom? (Cutter, 2016; Meerow & Newell, 2016); Who should pay? (Farber, 2007); questions that have also been raised recurrently in this debate.
Beyond our reflection, it is a matter of elaborating and inserting mechanisms that guide adaptation and its flow of narratives and resources to resolve these issues. I understand in this direction the environmental justice approach proposed by Silja and the urgency of championing biases and flaws in how adaptation is funded, researched, planned and implemented, as it is recognized by Deborah.
We love the consensus and I think we can achieve it along this debate but keeping these priorities in mind that should be well addressed by CCA.
We are seeing how, precisely in the preamble to launch the 5G (the most powerful network), the main nations in the world are facing their populations diminished and production processes stopped in a spectacle of schizophrenia, disarticulation and arrogance. This is just one example of the fragility of the social fabric that we must adapt to take on bigger challenges.
Cutter, S. L. (2016). Resilience to What? Resilience for Whom? Geographical Journal, 182(2), 110–113. https://doi.org/10.1111/geoj.12174.

Meerow, s and J P newell (2016), “resilience for whom, what, when, where, and why? the Politics of Urban resilience”, Urban Geography, 21 pages.

Farber, D. A. (2007). “Adapting to Climate Change: Who Should Pay?”. UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 980361. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.980361.

Online Debates
 May 8, 2020
Bunzli finds that adaptation offers little that can be considered new “towards safety and stability.” But we are witnessing a significant change in votes. It seems, after all, that not all participants will throw the baby out with the bathwater. Instead, there seems to be an interest in giving adaptation a chance (Duvan and Yky) and in exploring the characteristics required to implement the “right” type of adaptation. Juan Sebastian points to pertinent (often lacking) municipal capacities. Steffan points to appropriate governance structures and values (social justice). Duvan focuses on spaces for negotiation (i.e. negotiated resilience). So will we “save” adaptation in the last few days we have in this debate?
 R.A.Rancan
 May 8, 2020·
Well, I try to put the two strategies of mitigation and adaptation inside the traditional approach of risk analysis and risk disaster reduction strategies. So, mitigation of climate change is the attempt to act at the source of the issue and it is like to eliminate the hazard inside the traditional risk analysis equation: R = HxVxC. Adaptation to climate change, or better to the effects of climate change, defines strategies to act on vulnerabilities of the existing system (a community, a village, a city…) to reduce or avoid the consequences. As already said in some posts this is a pragmatic and more over engineering approach when measures involve in particular the physical domain of the system, in others instead it seems that social and political aspects are also considered and they are anyway important because they involve the social and the cognitive domains of the system. If we consider the fact that data must be collected, processed, and distributed we embrace the information domain, that demonstrate the importance to face the issue through a holistic and all system approach. But despite the fact that risk analysis and risk reduction strategy work still well when you base your analysis on past data or on well-known phenomena, for me the core aspect of the issue is that we are facing new problems with old instruments. The effects of climate change are an example of complex problem because of cascading process due to the interconnectedness of the system. Nowadays, adaptation strategies instead are scenario-based ones, in particular when used to establish large urban transformation plan. But scenario is developed on prediction and if we can predict than the problem is a complicated one, not a complex one as instead it is. So, I think that the adaptation strategies should be constructed more on the development of the quality of adaptability. Adaptability as the capacity to transform itself (a person, an organization, a community) to maintain the same identity, through the impact of an unexpected event. I think we should train to develop new capabilities to navigate in waters constantly agitated, preparing for uncertainty.
Yky
 May 9, 2020
After such a rich debate, during which so many arguments have been discussed, what else could we add? Is there any issue we have missed or (over)simplified? And if we did, would it really be in favor of adaptation? Let me try to add one more thought. I was struck by one comment posted by Steffen on determinism arguing that a participatory process can only be “framed” by decades of practices, thereof pre-defining the problems and priorities, avoiding the ability to think beyond sole environmental questions, emphasizing so the political deadlocks Gonzalo was referring to. If a social determinism cannot be contested, the question remains however why its awareness has not created during the past decades the appropriate conditions to reverse the trend, generating a new approach that could “save adaptation” (as we would like it to be saved). Seen from the point of view of a non-expert citizen, I can only agree with the closing remark of Silja, referring to the role of science and scientists. I wonder if the linear thinking which is rooted in our society has not also influenced (most of) the scientific world in the way climate change is currently addressed (not sure I will make many friends with this post…). Deadlocks are much probably initiated by those who have interest in a business-as-usual status. But linear thinking will be its transmission belt. To give adaptation its best chance, the scientific community needs this ability to reconsider what needs to be reconsidered. But such ability is not an innate gift or a matter of developing the right rhetoric. Critical thinking is not only a question of motivation. It is a matter of pedagogy, learning encompassing the minimum required in the fields of philosophy and sociology, experiencing the unexpected as a valuable way of reconsidering what is often seen as granted. But how many participants in this debate have received such training? Having worked with indigenous populations, Silja certainly knows that shamanic traditions and deep contact with nature helped our ancients to acquire this non-linear way of thinking that most of us lost.
I belong to the optimistic group, hopefully not naïve. Critical thinking is accessible for everyone. In a sense, the link provided by Juan is a good example of authors having reconsidered their own point of view on the continuum between adaptation and development. But critical thinking has a pre-requisite: we have to accept to leave our comfort zone and be challenged every time it helps to build our collective intelligence. And this is also true for experts, whatever their expertise level. So let’s not always blame others. The key to unlock and save adaptation calls also for proper behavioral guidelines and this is in our hands.
Many thanks to all participants. Your views were not only interesting, they were inspiring.
Stay safe,
Yky
George Benson
 May 11, 2020
I want to express my gratitude to both of the writers here for their peeling back the layers of assumption that rest in the practice and theory of adaptation, but also in, I believe, laying clear the necessity continuing to engage with the topic area itself on an ongoing basis. As Deborah Harford I think convincingly argues, the need for responses to climate change — whether we think of them variously as adaptation, resilience, or environmental justice — will not leave us for the rest of the century. Indeed, both the social and natural science research make this point abundantly clear. Our world will change, whether we like it or not; the significant choice we are left with, is what kind of world do we want our responses to build?
Will we build a world that transforms and moves us towards environmental and social justice? One that affirms the rights of nature at the same time as it uplifts the voices and the material circumstances of the most vulnerable and historically marginalized people in the world? Or will we simply repackage, or likely further entrench, the historical injustices and power imbalances that have created climate change in the first place, and threaten to amplify its impacts beyond previous human conceptions of cruelty?
Deborah’s corpus of work, and the progressive cadre of reflexive practitioners that she works with, gives me a profound sense of hope that we have people living the kind of approach that, as Dr Klepp notes, must be attentive to the “power relations that lie behind technical solutions and policy.” The discursive, technical, and political battle that is being fought within adaptation spaces is increasingly a public one about what power relations want to protect or build. For those watching here, I think the call to action for us all is to continue to wade into adaptation debates and co-create (with movements, communities, and widely multidisciplinary colleagues) frameworks and paradigms that serve us, but also, crucially, to provide, clear pragmatic solutions that address historical inequities and provide material benefits to marginalized communities. The semantic debate here has profound real-world consequences, and Deborah’s work has laid out convincing case studies for how a progress-minded, justice-cemented climate adaptation praxis can lead us where we want to go.
While I respect Dr Klepp’s contention that technological fixes cannot own the whole of the conversation, and certainly not the entirety of the research agenda, we must never conflate the specifics technology with generality of materiality. As those involved in addressing climate change, we have a core moral and professional responsibilities to the material protection, empowerment, and transformation of all communities. As she says, this can only be done effectively through multidisciplinary, epistemically diverse communities of knowledge and practice, but whatever the new, pluralistic methodological approaches we undertake (and indeed, we need many, many more), the material power-relations and outcomes of communities must always form a core part of that which we aim to transcend.
Luisa Sarmiento
 May 11, 2020
Thank you everyone for this interesting debate ! Gracias a todos por este interesante debate !
I really don’t have any more ontologies or theoretical frameworks to add. I feel that all of them have been used with extremely rich arguments !! Maybe just as a final remark like Yky suggested…
I have lived half of my life in Colombia (origins), and half of my life in Canada (refugee to citizen). When I work in Colombia or in Canada, I get a similar dynamic than in this debate: division and contrast. Both parties have strong and valid arguments, but no consensus. This is due to the reality of each country. Although Colombia and Canada both have their fair share of economic poverty and corruption, this is a larger reality in Colombia. As a personal example, most of my childhood neighbours are dead, in poverty or have left the area for a better life. In the North, not so many people absolutely need to leave their home to seek a better life. These migrations fluxes, if not carried out well, can bring cultural misbalances and environmental problems, but I do not have the space to elaborate on this for now. Disclaimer: I come from a “rougher” neighbourhood in Colombia and this is NOT the reality everywhere in the country.
Yes sure, adaption might work in some places ! I mean true change operates on different levels and with different means. But if you are trying to survive today, there is no way that you will give much attention to climate change. Even more, the corona pandemic has revealed tremendous inequalities: the person that needs to sell 10 avocados a day to feed his/her family, but can no longer do it because of national restrictions. Adaptation policies can be that in Southern countries, they can be sources of inequalities. If we shift our politics towards adaptation, it can become a powerful tool for government to operationalise adaptation concepts like Silja so-well mentioned (i.e. a government that kills its own people for mostly appearances, see the “false positives” scandal in Colombia). These adaptation measures can become rather apolitical and will potentially result in a shift of governmental responsibility from social to climate change adaptations measures. For example, a program on basic live standards may no longer be financed in order to finance an adaptation measure. Here is where the distinction between North and South politics becomes difficult and divides opinions.
From my experience and my research with indigenous communities, I have seen that what really works is cultural change / community level. The following is the context of Colombia, but not so far lays Canada. Indigenous territorial settlements are often unjust whether located in their ancestral lands, enduring isolation, forced by illegal armed groups to establish themselves in urban settlements in marginal areas of the cities due to the pressures of colonisation, or the actions of national or transnational companies. However, in indigenous communities and elsewhere in the world (e.g. Kiel, Germany), nothing is stronger than culture. That is what indigenous people carry: cultures that have survived thousands of year with tight relationship to their environment. It is deeply embedded in most indigenous cultures (not all), in their traditional knowledge and in their languages. For example, in atikamekw, language spoken by the Atikamekw of Québec (Canada), the word “lake” translates to “the being to love”. It is more than a lake, you need to take care of it and to preserve it. And in that context, for indigenous peoples, “resilience” is rooted in traditional knowledge, because their capacity to “adapt” to environmental and social changes are based on in-depth understanding of the land and the dynamic use of their cultural knowledge. Will we forget murdered indigenous women in Canada and the social problematics leading to that in other to adapt to climate change in the Artic?
So, to make this short. I believe that in addition to all the problems that adaptions can bring (might also bring benefits), it can simply act as a temporary relief. We should try to tackle “climate change” at its roots: it is inherently a social problem. We need to make sure that people can survive today, so they can invest in tomorrow. We need to make sure people can have access to resources of their personal interests (internet, books, forests, whatever).
Juan Sebastian Canavera Herrera
 May 11, 2020
As Yky expresses in his last comment, this has been a very rich and interesting debate. I am glad to see that now most people believe in adaptation being our best choice. By reading the remarks from Deborah and Silja and the comments of all participants I still believe that no one is actually arguing against the need for adaptation and we have focused on looking at the power relations, the politics and epistemological debates behind adaptation.
I would like to finish my participation in this debate with the following thought. In my experience working on adaptation planning during my PhD I came to a “simple” definition of adaptation. For me, put simply, adaptation is the simultaneous management of climate risk and the management of change. Until now, most efforts have been focused on the management of climate risk. This explains why technoscientific solutions have more dominant as engineers and scientists are more comfortable working on this aspect of adaptation. On the other hand, the management of change is something that falls more under the umbrella of social sciences and humanities. There has been a lack of attention in this aspect of adaptation as expressed by many during this debate explaining why we see adaptation as not working properly. I believe that only when both types of management are being done simultaneously is when we are doing proper adaptation. We have been trying to do adaptation so far in many places as if we were riding a bike with only one wheel. Is not impossible to do it, but I assure you we are less likely to fall or crash if we have both wheels on the bike. So to fix adaptation, we need to implement both the management of climate risk and the management of change simultaneously. Not an easy task, but worth it.
Thanks for an interesting debate and stay safe everyone.
Online Debates
 May 11, 2020
I am working on the closing remarks. I hope you like them. We will post them on Wednesday
Thank you for your comments Yky, Juan Sebastian, Luisa and gprbenson.
Duvan
 May 12, 2020
Nobody is here arguing against adaptation but the debate would never conclude about what does adaptation means?. The comments and conclusive remarks clearly showed that nobody is supporting that adaptation is our best choice without previously asking about, adaptation for whom? adaptation for what? or Who should pay?.
The problem is that such an undefinition of a universal conception for adaptation, as evident as it was revealed through this debate, is annoying or just unacceptable for the majority of scientists, decision-makers, politicians, or public opinion.
Answers are not simple, but they may be, especially if it is appropriate for somebody to make them that way. Our debate illustrates well how much heterogeneities claim for inclusion from the more superficial spheres of narratives, the constituents of the landscape, the people, epistemologies, ontologies, and even realities according to comments by Oleg (based on Blaser, 2013). Also, the dramatic consequences of simplification on these different levels have been exemplified.
I think a good point is to admit that even requiring fast and simple solutions, this global conflictivity is probably demanding the ever-increasing complexity of the knowledge and management mechanisms. Ulrich Beck well denounced an “organized irresponsibility” resulting from a politically correct science combined with a political necessity of responses in front of the public opinion.
The antidote in his opinion appeals for what he called “reflexive modernity”, where the spheres of decision are politized, never displacing science debates, but opening them to the public opinion under the condition of transparency and fluency of information in a society empowered and qualified to process it, and with enough deliberative bodies arranging what he called a “technical democracy”.
I see this sociologic diagnosis quite coincident and comprehensive backgrounding what Ziervogel (2017) calls “negotiated resilience” (that I previously brought up); also it is coincident with the second point remarked by Silja in her closing remarks advocating for reflexivity, engagement, and scientific activism.
Many thanks for this enriching space of debate to Gonzalo, Deborah, Silja, the whole organizers, and all the commenters and colleagues.
Keep positive and connected!
My references:
Beck, U. (1998). La política de la sociedad de riesgo. Estudios demográficos y urbanos, 501-515. Recuperado el 09 de Abril de 2020 de https://estudiosdemograficosyurbanos.colmex.mx.

Beck, U., & Holzer, B. (2007). Organizations in the world risk society. International handbook of organizational crisis management. En Pearson, C. M., Roux-Dufort, C., & Clair, J. A. (2007). International handbook of organizational crisis management. Sage Publications.

Online Debates
 May 12, 2020
Hi Duvan
Thank you for your comment and references. They are useful for the moderator’s closing remarks. I hope you will like them
Arq.RobertoML
 May 12, 2020
No me extenderé en mi planteamiento modesto y particular. Mi tesis como diplomante fue en el 2011 junto a mi maravilloso tutor Andres Olivera Ranero y allí tocamos el tema de “¿Cómo fomentar la participación popular en la reconstrucción post desastre?” Este trabajo me demostró que somos un ecosistema vivo y que la idea de separar criterios es dañina, no se trata de enfocarse en lo técnico o social, se trata de vincular TODO, PUES SOMOS UNA MAQUINARIA EN LA CUAL NO SE PUEDE PRESCINDIR DE NINGÚN ENGRANAJE. Por ejemplo, aprendí como resumen en mi caso particular que cambiando a un gobierno desde sus cimientos cambiamos sus proyecciones políticas, sociales, sus enfoques científico- técnicos y filosifias que inciden en el desarrollo de toda la sociedad. Durante el proceso de dessarrollo de la mensionada tesis se realizaron encuestas dirigidas a la población las cuales arrojaron una impresionante cantidad de elementos y datos sociales, económicos y técnicos que demostraron se debe tener en cuenta todos los elementos de la sociedad para poder generar soluciones viables. Considero que se debe adaptar la arquitectura y todos los estilos de vida ante los nuevos cambios, se debe tratar de eliminar las fuentes de contaminación pero nada de esto es posible sin generar un CAMBIO MAYOR. Solamente haciendo una revolución social a escala global podremos generar un verdadero y definitivo cambio. Me apoyo en el siguiente planteamiento “…el cambio climático y la necesidad de adaptar las comunidades a los efectos negativos de estos, no son más que síntomas de una enfermedad…” Un gobierno inadecuado genera políticas inadecuadas en lo social, económico, tecnológico, cultural y así en todas las esferas de la sociedad, para finalmente afectar y degradar el medio ambiente en el cual todo se desarrolla. Considero que no se debe pensar en un cambio en una de las esferas sin antes pensar en un cambio integral, pues somos parte de un todo único, armónico y coherente, es así nos guste o no desde mi modesto punto de vista. La única forma de incidir de forma global es generando un cambio global… cambiar todos los gobiernos que deban ser cambiados para asi garantizar un impacto a escala global y esto solo se puede hacer comenzando desde abajo. Hasta que el cerebro superior de la sociedad que son los gobernantes y sus estructuras no cambien no podrán guiar al cuerpo que se llama sociedad; no importa cuan numerosos o grande sean. Tengo mucho que expresar pero considero que me entendí demasiado. Para terminar concluyo diciendo que no debemos crear grupos diferentes para enfrentar la situación actual, debemos integrarnos y unir esfuerzos, el concepto de lo adecuado e inadecuado es relativo y varia en dependencia del filtro moral de cada cual y de su percepcion muy particular del mundo. Esta enfermedad nos ataca a todos, es tiempo de que todos la ataquemos. No concibo un cambio científico y social que no sea integrador, vean de forma más amplia, nada es tan sencillo. son tiempos de cambio y de unidad. saludos
Ilan Kelman
 May 12, 2020
Thank you to everyone for this enriching debate and fascinating discussion! I very much appreciate those posting who do not see climate change adaptation as a modern construct, but instead go back to history. In particular, on issues of vulnerability, resilience, dealing with the environment, adjusting to change, and recognising what the climate does and does not offer, we know that disaster-related research, policy, and practice has long addressed them.
Such lessons are often forgotten in contemporary discussions, especially when people consider that only material after the year 2000 is relevant. Not much new comes from focusing on climate change or considering adaptation to climate change only. See many lessons from the last millennium provided through http://www.ilankelman.org/disasterarchives.html
Definitionally, it is interesting that disaster risk reduction does everything which climate change adaptation does–and more! Do we really even need climate change adaptation as a separate field? Why not take climate change adaptation as a subset of disaster risk reduction? Beyond disaster risk reduction, given the long, rich history and experience of development and sustainability, we should also be drawing on these wider and deeper approaches.
So let’s bring them together, build on existing knowledge rather than re-inventing the same ideas, and join forces to do better for society dealing with all challenges:
(a) https://doi.org/10.1108/DPM-02-2017-0043.
(b) https://doi.org/10.1007/s13753-018-0188-3.
(c) https://doi.org/10.1007/s13753-015-0038-5.
(d) https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-016-2294-0.
(e) https://www.routledge.com/The-Routledge-Handbook-of-Disaster-Risk-Reduction-Including-Climate-Change/Kelman-Mercer-Gaillard/p/book/9781138924567.
(f) http://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v4i4.729.

Thank you for being part of it and for contributing!

Oleg Zurmuehlen
 May 12, 2020
Thanks for this thorough debate. I hope it will spread into other channels and new contexts in order to stay alive as long as possible. For my last contribution I want to pick up some threads of the previous comments and weave them together into a flying carpet – a speculative carrier for future climate change adaptation.
Yky reminded us that in order to unlock deadlocks we probably need to look at ourselves – some, if not all of us, experts. The deadlock residing in the intersection of knowledge and (political) power not only affects the decision-making political institutions (Governments) and the financial institutions (e.g. World Bank), but also the knowledge institutions: the universities. Us.
Steffen is right saying that “unfortunately, most actors involved in the COP debates don’t get the social justice and local empowerment narratives that many people in this debate agree on; and community-led practices, while great, get more lip-service than funding. The “if” part seems to me to be whether climate change actors will/can incorporate learning from social theory, political-ecology and urban and development practice developed over the past 50 years.” Most of us did learn from such fields and while producing knowledge we are also actors on climate change. We all are change agents and we have a responsibility towards our changing world to stay open for thinking, acting, coping and adapting in novel ways.
But did our universities really adapt to the realities produced by climate change yet? From my student perspective, I hardly believe they did (although there are a whole lot of inspiring initiatives out there like the EnJust network or debates such as these). Just as Steffen worries that in participatory adaptation processes problems and priorities are often pre-defined, so are problems and priorities in the universities, it seems to me.
As a geography master student I had training in political ecology, but most of the training I received did not provide transformative ways to cope with climate change. This is because things were taught like they have been taught for the past 50 years, which is among other things due to the neoliberalisation of universities and the heavy workload of researching, publishing, teaching and secure funding at the same time.
As Juan found that “several barriers to effective adaptation in the city and the predominant factors behind those barriers were related to the institutional environment”, this includes universities for me (not in all cases, but too often I have the feeling).
When N. Bunzli calls for “humankind to adapt to a new paradigm”, this responsibility also lies in universities. As adaptation is a “messy, challenging social process” following Silja Klepp, so too should be the knowledge production. There never is an easy, technical or natural answer to any research question.
Just as R.A.Rancan remind us that “adaptation strategies should be constructed more on the development of the quality of adaptability”, universities need to reconsider their adaptability, their capacity to transform.
Rancan makes us aware that “we are facing new problems with old instruments”, which calls for speculative efforts in knowledge production on climate change adaptation. We should not shy away from researching futures in order to facilitate new instruments, technologies, methods and teaching techniques.
As Juan said, there has been a lack of attention to the management of change in adaptation, this also applies often to university settings. Since, “the management of change is something that falls more under the umbrella of social sciences and humanities”, universities need to make space for more interdisciplinary research bridging natural and social sciences, especially regarding climate change (adaptation).
In the end, “universities that want to act as change agents have to thoroughly consider collaborative ways of research and education in informal learning environments so that knowledge demand, knowledge transfer and knowledge generation can be negotiated and jointly determined between local and regional societies and universities” (Peer & Stoeglehner 2012).
While we, who are embedded in university settings, recognize that we are change agents, we should shy away from control, management and design of our research practices in climate change adaptation contexts and rather start cooperating and thinking collectively with researchers from other disciplines as well as with local communities and social movements. With climate change as an impending catastrophe, we can’t help but acknowledge that borders between natural sciences and social sciences as well as research and activism dissolve.
This is one of my main take aways from our debate. Stay safe, curious and open, change agents!
Reference:
Peer, V., & Stoeglehner, G. (2013). Universities as change agents for sustainability–framing the role of knowledge transfer and generation in regional development processes. Journal of Cleaner Production, 44, 85-95.
Daniel Morchain
 May 12, 2020
Fabulous debate, thank you Silja, Deborah and Gonzalo!
Silja’s comment on the tremendous power of predominant ontologies is fundamental to understand the essence of the problem. This reality remains a major blocker of progress towards a more effective and just adaptation. On the other hand, I don’t believe that finding co-benefits between adaptation and mitigation efforts is a recipe to move forward towards a desirable future – instead, that is just a way to maintain existing structures and resign ourselves to accept the premise that things won’t get better for those worse off.
Sadly, the fact that this debate is still necessary in 2020 is a reflection of the persisting narrow framing of adaptation that imposes Western worldviews on others and prevents a deeper exploration of the problem and of the many different ways it could be addressed.
Indeed, the way powerful institutions present a problem facing humanity (and get away with it) hugely influences how societies respond to it – and what we see and don’t see as being the challenges. If responding to climate change had historically been presented largely as a quest to enhance our wellbeing and secure our human rights, then the whole machinery funding climate change efforts would have needed to address these issues head-on and the panorama today would look very different and more promising, more diverse and inclusive. Instead, climate change adaptation efforts continue to be under-funded, incremental (i.e. not transformational) and, as such, focused on securing the permanence of today’s institutions and the status quo, while also prioritising technocratic ‘solutions’ at the expense of a people-centred approach.
As Anna Grear & Julia Dehm put it, “every framing inevitably involves selection, if not pre-selection – and in that, represents an exercise of power” (p. 1). In order to move forward towards a more just response to the climate crisis, a re-framing of the problem and a re-assessment of the knowledge sources considered valuable is as urgent as any adaptation response has ever been.
Grear, A. and Dehm, J. (2020) Editorial. Journal of Human Rights and the Environment; 11 (1): 1-5
Steffen Lajoie
 May 12, 2020
As a means of challenging the essentialism of “Adaptation” and to push beyond normative conceptualisations, while retaining the wisdom, I would like to reflect on a few trends in the debate.
There a tricky bit around the question: is adaptation our best option. Of course, it is not. Responses to climate change can be done under the rubric of sustainability, resilience, development, transformation, or other concepts that have emerged along the way: peaceful governance, space making, urban acupuncture, small change, transformation and the list will grow.
I think that the other trick in the debate question, and around “adaptation to climate change” in general is the imperative. First, it seems like the question is, should we respond to the growing impact climate change is having on human settlements. The knee-jerk answer is of course. But that was not the question. The question was is “adaptation” our best choice. And so, then the answer is of course not. There are a multitude of ways to integrate climate concerns into development programmes. In fact, both debaters listed examples of participatory tools and approaches that are not distinct to an “adaptation” approach. The same transformative tools were developed and are used to target vulnerability and the development deficit.
Much of resilience and adaptation to climate change knowledge is founded on “systems thinking” favoured in bio-physics and engineering. Throughout the debate other ways of knowing, like indigenous knowledges, social theory, and critical thinking have been underlined. John Friedman’s classic analysis the Planning in the public domain: from knowledge to action (1987), lists 4 major traditions in planning: policy analysis, social learning, social reform and social mobilization. Acknowledging professional and academic backgrounds and biases is paramount to getting into this deeper discussion. Systems analysis falls within the policy analysis tradition, the transformative agenda is very much a part of social mobilization and the two are supported by very different worldviews and assumptions. This is a major hurdle for interdisciplinary work between natural and social sciences, and further, to local and indigenous knowledges and ways of experiencing the universe. Traditions are infinite. How does one learn to respect and work with other traditions beyond the ones they may take for granted? Luisa expressed this challenge well.
Before and since Richard Chambers wrote “Whose reality counts” (1998), a lot of work has been done on participatory research and development that empower people to engage in the production of their communities. This has occurred mostly in disciplines like development, planning and the social sciences. As both debaters have demonstrated, these approaches and tools are being implemented and improved, but need wider acknowledgment. The truth is, this is a new way of working and so there remains much to learn. That this is occurring within an “Adaptation” framing, I think, has been one its best contributions.
Do we have to adapt? Or take action? What do you want to call it? For the time being, since global powers insist on using this term, it will be leverage for international funding and policy influence under National Adaptation Plans and other programmes. But when this buzz word is no longer trendy, will there be no better options? Will responses to climate change cease? Or will the rose have another name?
Steffen Lajoie
 May 12, 2020
And thank you everyone! My mind and reading list have been expanded! Good luck on the closing remarks Gonzalo, looking forward to reading them.
Cissy Huang
 May 13, 2020
Thank you, everyone, for all the resources and interesting debate. Being in the camp of ‘giving adaptation a chance’, it’s very helpful and beneficial for me to see the debate turn to how to best operationalise adaptation.
At the moment I’m helping a large financial institution in Australia and New Zealand to understand climate adaptation and its opportunities to combat climate change. The debate provided many valuable resources and insights. Personally I found the point on ‘vulnerability exacerbates by climate change, not cause by climate change’ mentioned by ‘steffenlajoie’ and many others helps me to reflect on the causal relationship between the current system, vulnerability and climate change in my current project.
However, many of the discussion and literature are too theoretical for someone who’s trying to operationalise adaptation in a non-humanitarian sector.
Words matters’ as suggested by Ben Wisner. To operationalise adaptation, a few points I would like to expand on for all practitioners to consider:
Transformational Adaptation
– Many of you mentioned transformative results requires productive political exchange. To me, the political difference is generally cultural and value difference.
– To operationalise and enable the exchange, I suggest break down the political difference and encourage value and cultural exchange. This could apply to two individuals, two different communities, organisations or countries!
– I believe a transformative partnership will bring out the political exchange we need to see a transformational adaptation.
Political Stand
– I agree that we can’t separate politics from climate change adaptation. At the end, everyone is expressing our political value and belief through our daily actions.
– Yet to operationalise the adaptation, we need cross-disciplinary. corporation.
– Agree with Juan’s on adaptation shouldn’t be exclusively political. Yet I would point out all recommendation we make, whether we are an engineer or a business strategic adviser (me), is a balancing act between different values (that’s politic).
– While I believe in focusing on the present and future, not changing the past, I’m also mindful the recommendation I am inclusive, or not exarate the current vulnerable group for the very least.
Based on my experience, I found for financial sectors and public sectors audience, simplicity and actions driven are the key in communication. My current research shows most adaptation are financed based on capital project methods. Thus the language, measurements on returns etc are all project-based methodology mainly for financial return focus.
Looking at the debate from a system perspective with a business focus, I would argue climate change is a market shift, and CCA is one of many innovative approaches to deal with the market shift (Andy Hoffman, 2009).
Circling back to the debate, CCA, with GhG is the best in successfully gaining the mainstream audience’s attention. Hence, for now, I would argue that it’s the best innovation to deal with climate change for now. Yet with any innovation, I expect to see it continue being challenged through research and one day be overtaken by other approaches.
In the end, let’s not waste a good crisis. Climate change has weakened the current system’s status quo and it’s a perfect opportunity to shape the next phase of our future – a fairer system and inclusive development goals.
Below is some quick read from a business perspective. I look forward to future exchanges!
https://ritholtz.com/2019/10/mib-michael-spence/

 

Selected key references

Bankoff, G. (2019). “Remaking the world in our own image: vulnerability, resilience and adaptation as historical discourses”. Disasters, Volume 43, Issue 2, April 2019. Pages 221-239. First published: 04 October 2018. Available at: doi.org/10.1111/disa.12312.
Evans, B.; Reid, J. (2014). Resilient Life: The Art of Living Dangerously. Cambridge, UK & Malden, MA: Polity Press. 208 pages.
Farber, D. A. (2007). “Adapting to Climate Change: Who Should Pay?”. UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 980361. Available at: dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.980361.
Friedmansvati U.; Narula K. (2014). “The UN’s New Focus: Surviving, Not Stopping, Climate Change”. The Atlantic, April 1, 2014. Available at: www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/04/the-uns-new-focus-surviving-not-stopping-climate-change/359929/.
Gardiner, S. (2011). A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change. Oxford University Press.
IPCC (2001). TAR Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Available at: www.ipcc.ch/report/ar3/wg2/.
IPCC (2014). Climate change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (WGII AR5). Available at: www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg2/.
IPCC (2018). Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 C (SR15). 8 October 2018, Incheon, South Korea. Available at: www.ipcc.ch/sr15/download/.
Kelman, I.; Mercer, J.; Gaillard J.C. (2017). The Routledge Handbook of Disaster Risk Reduction Including Climate Change. Routledge international handbooks. Routledge, London.
Klepp, S.; Chavez-Rodriguez, L. (2018). A Critical Approach to Climate Change Adaptation. London: Routledge. Available at: doi.org/10.4324/9781315165448.
Pielke, R.; Prins, G.; Rayner, S. et al. (2007). “Lifting the taboo on adaptation”. Nature n° 445, pp. 597–598. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1038/445597a.
Scott, J. (1998). Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. Yale University Press.
Scoville-Simonds, M.; Jamali, H.; Hufty, M. (2020). “The Hazards of Mainstreaming: Climate change adaptation politics in three dimensions”. World Development, Volume 125, January 2020. Available at: doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2019.104683.
Shalizi, Z., Lecocq, F. (2009). “To Mitigate or to Adapt: Is that the Question? Observations on an Appropriate Response to the Climate Change Challenge to Development Strategies”. The World Bank Research Observer, Volume 25, Issue 2, August 2010, Pages 295–321. Available at: doi.org/10.1093/wbro/lkp012.
Stern, N. (Eds.) (2006). The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge.
Zhou, H.; Wang, X.; Wang, J. (2016). “A Way to Sustainability: Perspective of Resilience and Adaptation to Disaster”. Sustainability 2016, 8, 737. Available at: doi.org/10.3390/su8080737.