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Turning points in climate change adaptation

Saskia Elisabeth Werners, Wageningen UR
Erik van Slobbe, Wageningen UR
Tobias Bölscher, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Albert Oost, Deltares
Stefan Pfenninger, Imperial College London
Giacomo Trombi, Department of Agri-Food Production and Environmental Sciences (DISPAA), University of Florence
Marco Bindi, Department of Agri-Food Production and Environmental Sciences (DISPAA), University of Florence
Marco Moriondo, CNR-IBIMET

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-07403-200403

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Abstract

Concerned decision makers increasingly pose questions as to whether current management practices are able to cope with climate change and increased climate variability. This signifies a shift in the framing of climate change from asking what its potential impacts are to asking whether it induces policy failure and unacceptable change. In this paper, we explore the background, feasibility, and consequences of this new framing. We focus on the specific situation in which a social-political threshold of concern is likely to be exceeded as a result of climate change, requiring consideration of alternative strategies. Action is imperative when such a situation is conceivable, and at this point climate change becomes particularly relevant to decision makers. We call this situation an “adaptation turning point.” The assessment of adaptation turning points converts uncertainty surrounding the extent of a climate impact into a time range over which it is likely that specific thresholds will be exceeded. This can then be used to take adaptive action. Despite the difficulty in identifying adaptation turning points and the relative newness of the approach, experience so far suggests that the assessment generates a meaningful dialogue between stakeholders and scientists. Discussion revolves around the amount of change that is acceptable; how likely it is that unacceptable, or more favorable, conditions will be reached; and the adaptation pathways that need to be considered under these circumstances. Defining and renegotiating policy objectives under climate change are important topics in the governance of adaptation.

Key words

adaptation turning points; climate change; governance; tools; uncertainty

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087