From barriers to limits to climate change adaptation: Path dependency and the speed of change

Jon Barnett, Louisa S. Evans, Catherine Gross, Anthony S. Kiem, Richard T. Kingsford, Jean P. Palutikof, Catherine M. Pickering, Scott G. Smithers

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    168 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Research on the barriers and limits to climate change adaptation identifies many factors, but describes few processes whereby adaptation is constrained or may indeed fail to avoid catastrophic losses. It often assumes that barriers are by and large distinct from limits to adaptation. We respond to recent calls for comparative studies that are able to further knowledge about the underlying drivers of barriers and limits to adaptation. We compare six cases from across Australia, including those in alpine areas, rivers, reefs, wetlands, small inland communities, and islands, with the aim of identifying common underlying drivers of barriers and limits to adaptation. We find that the path-dependent nature of the institutions that govern natural resources and public goods is a deep driver of barriers and limits to adaptation. Path-dependent institutions are resistant to change. When this resistance causes the changes necessary for adaptation to be slower than changes in climate, then it becomes a limit to adaptation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number5
    JournalEcology and Society
    Volume20
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2015

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