Table 1. Comparison of protect, accommodate, and retreat options

“Adaptation” option Dominant perception of the “natural” system state Who and what adapts to achieve desired system state Longer term implications for resilience
Protect Static or minimal dynamism (e.g., consistent sand coverage, stable river entrances). The social dimension of the system defends itself from change by manipulating the ecological dimension, often through a sociotechnical regime (e.g., a reduction in exposure through sand mining, beach wall, and/or groyne construction). Significant ongoing management and investment required, with the potential to impact negatively upon other system components.
Accommodate Dynamic system including periods of inundation and erosion with some degree of predictability and perceived high likelihood of system resilience. The social dimension of the system reacts to or anticipates changes in the ecological dimension and copes by making adjustments in socioeconomic and/or sociotechnical system components (e.g., elevating buildings, insurance). Resilience may be ensured in the short to medium term, depending on the context, the severity of climatic impacts, and the adaptive capacity of local communities. Longer term resilience is unlikely.
Retreat Increasingly dynamic system including less predictable disturbance regimes and perceived negative impacts on system resilience, particularly affecting the social dimension. The social dimension of the system adapts by reducing exposure to the impacts of climate change through the migration of communities and associated infrastructure. Significant initial investment with decreasing costs and increased resilience over time if issues associated with migration are anticipated and resourced (e.g., revised settlement patterns, socioeconomic transition strategies, and cultural needs assessment).