Refocusing critical adaptation research II: From international climate policy toward the embodied experiences of beneficiaries and technocrats

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, Development Geographies Specialty Group, Human Dimensions of Global Change Specialty Group
Organizers: Megan Mills-Novoa, Michael Mikulewicz
Chairs: Megan Mills-Novoa


n the wake of escalating climate change impacts, climate change adaptation is conceptually and materially reshaping projects across the globe with multi-faceted social, economic, and political consequences. While donors have been funding adaptation projects for over a decade, the size and number of these projects will continue to rise following the ratification of 2015 Paris Agreement and the operationalization of the Green Climate Fund, which has mobilized $10.3 billion dollars to date. Adaptation has now become an almost universally-accepted policy goal manifesting globally in the form of various projects seeking to transform landscapes and livelihoods away from climate change vulnerability and towards resilience.

While geographers have been at the forefront of both theorizing the fundamental concepts undergirding climate change adaptation (Adger 2005; Adger et al., 2009; Liverman, 2015; Bassett & Fogelman, 2013; Huq & Burton, 2003; Eriksen et al., 2015; Bracking, 2019; Winkler & Dubash, 2016; Sovacool et al., 2015; Taylor, 2014; Forsyth, 2014) and critiquing it as a concept (Swyngedouw 2013; Watts 2015), there remains a need for empirical research into the embodied experiences of the programmers and recipients of this adaptation aid, including technocrats and project beneficiaries. With this goal in mind, political ecologies of adaptation offer insight into the discursive and distributional politics underlying adaptation aid. The rationalities underlying the planning and distribution of these initiatives as well as the ownership and decision-making surrounding resources is a central concern in understanding the ‘transformation’ sought by adaptation aid and its messy outcomes on the ground.


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