Testing the reliability of adaptive capacity as a proxy for adaptive and transformative responses to climate change

Bartelet, Henry, Barnes, Michele, Bakti, Lalu A.A., and Cumming, Graeme (2023) Testing the reliability of adaptive capacity as a proxy for adaptive and transformative responses to climate change. Global Environmental Change, 81. 102700.

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The concept of adaptive capacity is increasingly being applied to understand and predict people’s ability to adapt to the emerging impacts of climate change. Despite its potential utility, the degree to which adaptive capacity is a reliable predictor of adaptation remains unclear; evidence for a causal relationship is insufficient and conflicting. To address this gap, we surveyed 231 reef tourism companies across eight countries in the Asia-Pacific that have been affected by severe climate disturbances between 2014 and 2019. We used a combination of descriptive and multivariate statistical approaches to explore the relationships between adaptive capacity, adaptive responses, and contextual conditions. Our findings indicate that a comprehensive operationalization of actor-specific adaptive capacity is not necessarily a reliable proxy for measuring potential adaptation to future climate change. The severity of impacts on individual operators was the major determinant of adaptive action. Adaptive action might therefore be adopted autonomously by the majority of microeconomic actors (when they are severely affected), irrespective of their a priori adaptive capacity. Adaptive capacity was, however, a reliable proxy for the likelihood that an operator would take transformative action as their primary response to a climate disturbance; several of our indicators of adaptive capacity had a meaningful effect size, in particular those within the adaptive capacity domain of social organization. Policies focused on improving coordination and collaboration between industry, research, and government actors might therefore be more effective than alternatives in promoting long-term transformation of social-ecological systems. Adaptation confidence and government effectiveness were barriers to transformative action, and we provide some potential explanations. Further empirical research is needed to evaluate the generality of our findings in different contexts over space and time.

Item ID: 78759
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1872-9495
Keywords: Adaptive capacity; Climate change; Adaptation; Microeconomics; Reef tourism; Coral bleaching; Asia-Pacific
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Copyright Information: © 2023 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC DE190101583
Research Data: https://doi.org/10.25903/rsp3-r033
Date Deposited: 30 May 2023 01:15
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4101 Climate change impacts and adaptation > 410103 Human impacts of climate change and human adaptation @ 100%
SEO Codes: 19 ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATURAL HAZARDS > 1901 Adaptation to climate change > 190101 Climate change adaptation measures (excl. ecosystem) @ 100%
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