current 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.
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 opponent’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 opponent’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 naturecultures, socionatures—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 opponent’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 September 2020! 

74 thoughts on “current debate

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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).

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. Hi Duvan

    Thank you for your comment and references. They are useful for the moderator’s closing remarks. I hope you will like them 😉

  9. 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

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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

  13. 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?

  14. And thank you everyone! My mind and reading list have been expanded! Good luck on the closing remarks Gonzalo, looking forward to reading them.

  15. 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/

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