Rethinking adaptation for a 4°C world

Rethinking adaptation for a 4°C world Journal Article

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences

  • Author(s): Stafford Smith, Mark, Horrocks, Lisa, Harvey, Alex, Hamilton, Clive
  • Published: 2011
  • Volume: 369

Abstract: With weakening prospects of prompt mitigation, it is increasingly likely that the world will experience 4°C and more of global warming. In such a world, adaptation decisions that have long lead times or that have implications playing out over many decades become more uncertain and complex. Adapting to global warming of 4°C cannot be seen as a mere extrapolation of adaptation to 2°C; it will be a more substantial, continuous and transformative process. However, a variety of psychological, social and institutional barriers to adaptation are exacerbated by uncertainty and long timeframes, with the danger of immobilizing decision-makers. In this paper, we show how complexity and uncertainty can be reduced by a systematic approach to categorizing the interactions between decision lifetime, the type of uncertainty in the relevant drivers of change and the nature of adaptation response options. We synthesize a number of issues previously raised in the literature to link the categories of interactions to a variety of risk-management strategies and tactics. Such application could help to break down some barriers to adaptation and both simplify and better target adaptation decision-making. The approach needs to be tested and adopted rapidly.

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Stafford Smith, Mark, Horrocks, Lisa, Harvey, Alex, Hamilton, Clive, 2011, Rethinking adaptation for a 4°C world, Volume:369, Journal Article, viewed 06 December 2023,

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