Rethinking adaptation for a 4°C world

Mark Stafford Smith, Lisa Horrocks, Alex Harvey, Clive Hamilton

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    235 Citations (Scopus)
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    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.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)196-216
    Number of pages21
    JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
    Issue number1934
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011

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