The Politics of Climate Change Adaptation

Annual Review of Environment and Resources, Vol. 43:317-341 (Volume publication date October 2018),  First published as a Review in Advance on May 31, 2018,

Climate action has two pillars: mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation faces collective action issues because its costs are focused on specific locations/actors but benefits are global and nonexcludable. Adaptation, in contrast, creates local benefits, and therefore should face fewer collective action issues. However, governance units vary in the types of adaptation policies they adopt. To explain this variation, we suggest conceptualizing adaptation-as-politics because adaptation speaks to the issues of power, conflicting policy preferences, resource allocation, and administrative tensions. In examining who develops and implements adaptation, we explore whether adaptation is the old wine of disaster management in the new bottle of climate policy, and the tensions between national and local policy making. In exploring what adaptation policies are adopted, we discuss maladaptation and the distinction between hard and soft infrastructure. Finally, we examine why politicians favor visible, hard adaptation over soft adaptation, and how international influences shape local policy.

People Involved: 
Status of Research or Work: 
Research Type: