Building Adaptive Capacity

Tim R. McClanahan and Joshua E. Cinner

in Adapting to a Changing Environment

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199754489
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918843 | DOI:
Building Adaptive Capacity

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In many places building adaptive capacity will be a critical part of preparing for climate change. This chapter discusses ways to build adaptive capacity in society, which is defined as attempts to improve people’s broad ability to cope with and adapt to change, and to take advantages of the opportunities provided by change. This chapter explores various strategies for building adaptive capacity, by reviewing key findings from the various academic disciplines that have long histories of application and research in building adaptive capacity, including human geography, development studies, agricultural economics, and understanding social-ecological systems. The chapter is focused primarily on the individual, community, and local institution scales, and provides examples related to natural resource use and management where possible. Specific strategies include avoiding or escaping poverty traps, creating robust and flexible institutions, improving governance through increased transparency, and fostering the ability of individuals and institutions to learn about climate change. Many of the policies and programs to build adaptive capacity will require external donor pressure and aid, as well as government support.

Keywords: adaptive capacity; climate change; governance; institutions; poverty trap; social-ecological system

Chapter.  7946 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Biodiversity and Conservation Biology

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