Resilience implications of policy responses to climate change

W. Neil Adger, Katrina Brown, Donald R. Nelson, Fikret Berkes, Hallie Eakin, Carl Folke, Kathleen Galvin, Lance Gunderson, Marisa Goulden, Karen O'Brien, Jack Ruitenbeek, Emma L. Thompkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

266 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines whether some response strategies to climate variability and change have the potential to undermine long-term resilience of social–ecological systems. We define the parameters of a resilience approach, suggesting that resilience is characterized by the ability to absorb perturbations without changing overall system function, the ability to adapt within the resources of the system itself, and the ability to learn, innovate, and change. We evaluate nine current regional climate change policy responses and examine governance, sensitivity to feedbacks, and problem framing to evaluate impacts on characteristics of a resilient system. We find that some responses, such as the increase in harvest rates to deal with pine beetle infestations in Canada and expansion of biofuels globally, have the potential to undermine long-term resilience of resource systems. Other responses, such as decentralized water planning in Brazil and tropical storm disaster management in Caribbean islands, have the potential to increase long-term resilience. We argue that there are multiple sources of resilience in most systems and hence policy should identify such sources and strengthen capacities to adapt and learn.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)757-766
Number of pages10
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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