Climate Vulnerability and Adaptation IV: Understanding Adaptation Behavior at Local Levels

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Human Dimensions of Global Change Specialty Group, Climate Specialty Group, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Grand Chenier, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Organizers: Alexandra Paige Fischer, Scott Stephenson
Chairs: Alexandra Paige Fischer


Understanding climate change adaptation behavior at local levels is because actions taken by individuals and households and other small groups most directly shape environmental conditions. People’s decisions to manage their immediate environments, resources, and infrastructure in response to climate change can exacerbate or ameliorate hazards and risks, and can improve or detract from welfare. Understanding factors in whether and how people adapt to climate change is important for designing policies that seek to shape human behavior to reduce exposure and sensitivity, and increase adaptive capacity. Despite a wealth of theories and frameworks for characterizing adaptation and vulnerability (Smit et al. 2000, Bassett and Fogelman 2013, Wise et al. 2014), most research and theory focuses on adaptation at municipal, regional, national or institutional levels (Berrang-Ford et al. 2011). A comprehensive framework for evaluating and explaining adapation behavior at the level of individuals, households and other small groups has not been fully developed (Berrang-Ford et al. 2011).

Notwithstanding substantial opportunity for research, studying how people adjust their behavior in anticipation of or response to climate change is a challenge, in part because climate impacts occur on large spatial and temporal scales that are difficult for humans to perceive and respond to. People tend to relate to small geographic areas for short periods of time relative to the scales on which many ecosystems function resulting in mismatches between environmental change and human response. Moreover, under conditions of great uncertainty and complexity, as with climate change, people may behave suitability for their immediate social and environmental circumstances yet irrationally in economic terms, making parsimonious models of adaptation difficult. Distinguishing adaptation from other types of responses can also be challenging, as a behavior can be adaptive or maladaptive depending on the scale and the outcome. Compounding these challenges, eliciting information about people’s understanding of causes and effects can be difficult because climate change is highly politicized. As such, research on climate change adaptation at local levels requires innovative approaches to data collection and analysis.

This organized paper session aims to bring researchers from diverse geographic areas and fields together to share current work on adaptation to climate change among individuals. Submissions that report on empirical research, literature syntheses and conceptual frameworks are all encouraged, especially presentations that focus on:

• Typologies and classifications of adaptive responses
• Distinguishing between adaptation, coping and resilience
• Feedbacks between human behaviors and environmental conditions
• Approaches for evaluating the adaptiveness of behavioral responses to climate change
• Socio-cognitive perspectives on adaptation (e.g., norms-values-behavior theory, politics of climate change)
• Scale mismatch due to fragmented and heterogeneous decision-making
• Conflicts between short-term best interests and longer range sustainability (e.g., trap conditions)

The session will be featured as part of the Special Symposium on Vulnerability, Resilience, and Adaptation to Climate Change, organized by the Human Dimensions of Global Change specialty group.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Alexandra Paige Fischer*, University of Michigan, Defining Individual Climate Change Adaptation: Insights from Temperate Forests 20 8:00 AM
Presenter Hannah Gosnell*, Oregon State University, Nicholas Gill, University of Wollongong, Understanding personal dimensions of change and persistence in transitions to “climate-smart” regenerative agriculture 20 8:20 AM
Presenter Alex Arnall*, University of Reading, Uma Kothari, University of Manchester , Global environmental change, adaptation and everyday life in island communities 20 8:40 AM
Presenter Andrea Gaughan*, University of Louisville, Jonathan Salerno, University of Colorado - Boulder, Lin Cassidy, Independent Consultant, Joel Hartter, University of Colorado - Boulder, Narcisa Pricope, University of North Carolina - Wilmington, Forrest Stevens, University of Louisville, Adaptive Capacity Framing for Household Vulnerability in a Dryland System 20 9:00 AM
Discussant Neil Adger University of Exeter, Department of Geography 20 9:20 AM

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