Observed adaptation to climate change: UK evidence of transition to a well-adapting society
Tompkins, E.L., Adger, W.N., Boyd, E., Nicholson-Cole, S., Weatherhead, K. and Arnell, N. (2010) Observed adaptation to climate change: UK evidence of transition to a well-adapting society. Global Environmental Change, 20 (4). pp. 627-635. ISSN 0959-3780
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2010.05.001
This paper investigates whether and to what extent a wide range of actors in the UK are adapting to climate change, and whether this is evidence of a social transition. We document evidence of over 300 examples of early adopters of adaptation practice to climate change in the UK. These examples span a range of activities from small adjustments (or coping) to building adaptive capacity, implementing actions and creating deeper systemic change in public and private organisations in a range of sectors. We find that adaptation in the UK has been dominated by government initiatives and has principally occurred in the form of research into climate change impacts. These actions within government stimulate a further set of actions at other scales in public agencies, regulatory agencies and regional government (or in the devolved administrations), though with little real evidence of climate change adaptation initiatives trickling down to local government level. The water supply and flood defence sectors, requiring significant investment in large scale infrastructure such as reservoirs and coastal defences, have invested more heavily in identifying potential impacts and adaptations. Economic sectors that are not dependent on large scale infrastructure appear to be investing far less effort and resources in preparing for climate change. We conclude that while the government-driven top-down targeted adaptation approach has generated anticipatory action at low cost, it may also have created enough niche activities to allow for diffusion of new adaptation practices in response to real or perceived climate change. These results have significant implications for how climate policy can be developed to support autonomous adaptors in the UK and other countries.