Value tradeoffs in adaptation decision-making

Authors: Rebecca Nixon*, Purdue University, Jason K. Hawes, University of Michigan, Zhao Ma, Purdue University, Bushra Khan, University of Peshawar
Topics: Global Change
Keywords: Adaptation, values, tradeoffs, water
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/9/2020
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Tower Court D, Sheraton, IM Pei Tower, Second Floor Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Values are increasingly examined as a key component in climate change adaptation; they are understood to shape perceptions of climate change impacts and inform definitions of acceptable risk and successful adaptation. It has also been acknowledged that adaptation decision-making involves multiple values, making it likely, if not inevitable, that these decisions will require value tradeoffs. Nevertheless, little empirical work has been done to examine how individuals and communities negotiate these tradeoff decisions. Adaptation is also understood to be embedded in multi-scalar processes; yet it remains unclear how values interact across temporal and spatial scales and in varying contexts. Our paper addresses this gap by presenting a conceptual framework developed through the examination of adaptations to water stress in northwestern Pakistan and the Eastern Snake Plain of Idaho. We analyze interview data from 45 water managers and users in Pakistan and Idaho to assess the role of values in adaptation decisions and find that tradition, certainty, efficiency, and financial cost are salient values in livelihood diversification and environmental management; however, the way in which they are traded off varies across scales and contexts. That is, individuals’ and communities’ differing willingness and ability to tradeoff these values can influence varying adaptive capacity, conflicting decisions, and maladaptation. Thus, this research seeks to understand what values influence adaptations across time, space, and contexts, positing that in addition to understanding values, it is also necessary to understand values in relation to each other to more fully understand adaptation decision-making.

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