Assessment of adaptation capacity options and constraints

17.3.1 Elements of adaptive capacity

Adaptive capacity is the ability or potential of a system to respond successfully to climate variability and change, and includes adjustments in both behaviour and in resources and technologies. The presence of adaptive capacity has been shown to be a necessary condition for the design and implementation of effective adaptation strategies so as to reduce the likelihood and the magnitude of harmful outcomes resulting from climate change (Brooks and Adger, 2005). Adaptive capacity also enables sectors and institutions to take advantage of opportunities or benefits from climate change, such as a longer growing season or increased potential for tourism.

Much of the current understanding of adaptive capacity comes from vulnerability assessments. Even if vulnerability indices do not explicitly include determinants of adaptive capacity, the indicators selected often provide important insights on the factors, processes and structures that promote or constrain adaptive capacity (Eriksen and Kelly, 2007). One clear result from research on vulnerability and adaptive capacity is that some dimensions of adaptive capacity are generic, while others are specific to particular climate change impacts. Generic indicators include factors such as education, income and health. Indicators specific to a particular impact, such as drought or floods, may relate to institutions, knowledge and technology (Yohe and Tol, 2002; Downing, 2003; Brooks et al., 2005; Tol and Yohe, 2007).

Technology can potentially play an important role in adapting to climate change. Efficient cooling systems, improved seeds, desalination technologies, and other engineering solutions represent some of the options that can lead to improved outcomes and increased coping under conditions of climate change. In public health, for example, there have been successful applications of seasonal forecasting and other technologies to

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