Limits to Climate Change Adaptation: Key Findings

Authors: NCCARF
Year: 2012

While adaptation barriers are obstacles that can be overcome with concerted effort, limits describe situations where particular climate change costs or outcomes cannot be avoided, only transcended. Limits to adaptation are often classified as ecological, economic, technological and/or social in nature. This factsheet presents the key insights from a project that encompassed six regional case studies of locations or systems where adaptation seems likely to reach its limits, in order to explore the underlying causes and potential to transcend these limits. The six case studies were: 1) the Great Barrier Reef, 2) Alpine areas, 3) the Coorong and Lower Lakes, 4) the Macquarie Marshes, 5) The Torres Strait Islands, 6) Small inland communities in the Murray-Darling Basin. The five key findings presented in this factsheet are: i) because any single strategy may fail, achieving adaptation goals is likely to require portfolios of multiple strategies; ii) Barriers can become limits, due to the inability of institutions to adjust despite there being possibility for adaptation to be supported; iii) Big processes, such as those that operate on a global scale or over long time scales, can limit local-scale adaptation responses; iv) Adaptation entails trade-offs between values, and limits to adaptation arise through trade-offs; however, v) if these trade-offs can be made explicit and the subject of deliberation by stakeholders, then adaptation can arise through active choices rather than de facto institutional behaviours.

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