Social Aspects of Adaptive Capacity

W. Neil Adger

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This paper outlines the nature of the relationship between climate change risks and social and institutional constraints on adaptation. Although the capacity of individuals to adapt to climate change is a function of their access to resources, the adaptive capacity of societies depends on the ability to act collectively in the face of the threats posed by climate variability and change. Thus adaptive capacity, as an element of overall vulnerability of a society, can be illuminated through examining the institutions for resource management and their effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy. I argue that the social capital constitutes social aspects of adaptive capacity. Social capital is made up of the networks and relationships between individuals and social groups that facilitate economic well-being and security. Indeed I demonstrate that social capital is an important element for coping with climate variability and hazard in the present day. The paper concludes with challenges for research to bring social aspects such as legitimacy and equity to the heart of the analysis of adaptation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationClimate Change, Adaptive Capacity and Development
EditorsJoel B. Smith, Richard J. T. Klein, Saleemul Huq
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherImperial College Press
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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