The policy window hypothesis refers to the phenomenon whereby adaptation actions such as policy and regulatory change are facilitated and occur directly in response to disasters, such as those associated with weather-related extreme events (Kingdon, 1995). According to this hypothesis, immediately following a disaster, the political climate may be conducive to legal, economic and social change which can begin to reduce structural vulnerabilities, for example, in such areas as mainstreaming gender issues, land reform, skills development, employment, housing and social solidarity. The assumptions behind the policy windows hypothesis are that (a) new awareness of risks after a disaster leads to broad consensus, (b) development and humanitarian agencies are 'reminded' of disaster risks, and (c) enhanced political will and resources become available. However, contrary evidence on policy windows suggests that, during the post-recovery phase, reconstruction requires weighing, prioritising and sequencing of policy programming, and there is the pressure to quickly return to conditions prior to the event rather than incorporate longer-term development policies (Christoplos, 2006). In addition, while institutions clearly matter, they are often rendered ineffective in the aftermath of a disaster. As shown in diverse contexts, such as ENSO-related impacts in Latin America, induced development below dams or levees in the U.S. and flooding in the United Kingdom, the end result is that short-term risk reduction can actually produce greater vulnerability to future events (Pulwarty et al., 2003; Berube and Katz, 2005; Penning-Rowsell et al., 2006).
2006; Tol et al., 2006). For example, rapid sea-level rise that inundates islands and coastal settlements is likely to limit adaptation possibilities, with potential options being limited to migration (see Chapter 15, Barnett and Adger, 2003; Barnett, 2005). Tol et al. (2006) argue that it is technically possible to adapt to five metres of sea-level rise but that the resources required are so unevenly distributed that in reality this risk is outside the scope of adaptation. In the Sudano-Sahel region of Africa, persistent below-average rainfall and recurrent droughts in the late 20th century have constricted physical and ecological limits by contributing to land degradation, diminished livelihood opportunities, food insecurity, internal displacement of people, cross-border migrations and civil strife (Mortimore and Adams, 2001; Leary et al., 2006; Osman-Elasha et al., 2006). The loss of Arctic sea ice threatens the survival of polar bears, even if hunting of bears were to be reduced (Derocher et al., 2004). The loss of keystone species may cascade through the socio-ecological system, eventually influencing ecosystems services that humans rely on, including provisioning, regulating, cultural, and supporting services (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2006).
The ecological literature has documented regime shifts in ecosystems associated with climatic changes and other drivers (Noss, 2001; Scheffer et al., 2001). These regime shifts are argued to impose limits on economic and social adaptation (van Vliet and Leemans, 2006). Economies and communities that are directly dependent on ecosystems such as fisheries and agricultural systems are likely to be more affected by sudden and dramatic switches and flips in ecosystems. In a review of social change and ecosystem shifts, Folke et al. (2005) show that there are significant challenges to resource management from ecosystem shifts and that these are often outside the experience of institutions. The loss of local knowledge associated with thresholds in ecological systems is a limit to the effectiveness of adaptation (Folke et al., 2005).
Technological adaptations can serve as a potent means of adapting to climate variability and change. New technologies can be developed to adapt to climate change, and the transfer of appropriate technologies to developing countries forms an important component of the UNFCCC (Mace, 2006). However, there are also potential limits to technology as an adaptation response to climate change.
First, technology is developed and applied in a social context, and decision-making under uncertainty may inhibit the adoption or development of technological solutions to climate change adaptation (Tol et al., 2006). For example, case studies from the Rhine delta, the Thames estuary and the Rhone delta in Europe suggest that although protection from five-metre sea-level rise is technically possible, a combination of accommodation and retreat is more likely as an adaptation strategy (Tol et al., 2006).
Second, although some adaptations may be technologically possible, they may not be economically feasible or culturally desirable. For example, within the context of Africa, large-scale engineering measures for coastal protection are beyond the reach of many governments due to high costs (Ikeme, 2003). In colder climates that support ski tourism, the extra costs of making snow at warmer average temperatures may surpass a threshold where it becomes economically unfeasible (Scott et al., 2003; Scott et al., 2007). Although the construction of snow domes and indoor arenas for alpine skiing has increased in recent years, this technology may not be an affordable, acceptable or appropriate adaptation to decreasing snow cover for many communities dependent on ski tourism. Finally, existing or new technology is unlikely to be equally transferable to all contexts and to all groups or individuals, regardless of the extent of country-to-country technology transfers (Baer, 2006). Adaptations that are effective in one location may be ineffective in other places, or create new vulnerabilities for other places or groups, particularly through negative side effects. For example, although technologies such as snowmobiles and GPS have facilitated adaptation to climate change among some Inuit hunters, these are not equally accessible to all, and they have potentially contributed to inequalities within the community through differential access to resources (Ford et al., 2006).
The implementation of adaptation measures faces a number of financial barriers. At the international level, preliminary estimates from the World Bank indicate that the total costs of 'climate proofing' development could be as high as US$10 billion to US$40 billion /yr (World Bank, 2006). While the analysis notes that such numbers are only rough estimates, the scale of investment implied constitutes a significant financial barrier. At a more local level, individuals and communities can be similarly constrained by the lack of adequate financial resources. Deep financial poverty is a factor that constrains the use of seemingly inexpensive health measures, such as insecticide-treated bed nets, while limited public finances contribute to choices by public health agencies to give low priority to measures that would reduce vulnerability to climate-related health risks (Taylor et al., 2006; Yanda et al., 2006). In field surveys and focus groups, farmers often cite the lack of adequate financial resources as an important factor that constrains their use of adaptation measures which entail significant investment, such as irrigation systems, improved or new crop varieties, and diversification of farm operations (Smit and Skinner, 2002).
Lack of resources may also limit the ability of low-income groups to afford proposed adaptation mechanisms such as climate-risk insurance. In the case of Mexico, a restructuring of public agricultural institutions paralleled market liberalisation, reducing the availability of publicly subsidised credit, insurance and technical assistance for smallholders (Appendini, 2001). Even where both crop insurance and contract farming were being actively promoted by the state and federal government to help farmers address climatic contingencies and price volatility, very few of the surveyed farmers had crop insurance (Wehbe et al., 2006). In addition, individuals often fail to purchase insurance against low-probability high-loss events even when it is offered at favourable premiums. While this may occur because of the relative benefits and costs of alternatives, the trade-offs may not be explicit. Kunreuther et al. (2001) show that the search costs involved in collecting and analysing relevant information to clarify trade-offs can be enough to discourage individuals from undertaking such assessments, and thus from purchasing coverage even when the premium is affordable.
Climate change is also likely to raise the actuarial uncertainty in catastrophe risk assessment, placing upward pressure on insurance premiums and possibly leading to reductions in risk coverage (Mills, 2005).
Extensive evidence from psychological research indicates that uncertainty about future climate change combines with individual and social perceptions of risk, opinions and values to influence judgment and decision-making concerning climate change (Oppenheimer and Todorov, 2006). It is increasingly clear that interpretations of danger and risk associated with climate change are context specific (Lorenzoni et al., 2005) and that adaptation responses to climate change can be limited by human cognition (Grothmann and Patt, 2005; Moser, 2005). Four main perspectives on informational and cognitive constraints on individual responses (including adaptation) to climate change emerge from the literature.
1. Knowledge of climate change causes, impacts and possible solutions does not necessarily lead to adaptation. Well-established evidence from the risk, cognitive and behavioural psychology literatures points to the inadequacy of the 'deficit model' of public understanding of science, which assumes that providing individuals with scientifically sound information will result in information assimilation, increased knowledge, action and support for policies based on this information (Eden, 1998; Sturgis and Allum, 2004; Lorenzoni et al., 2005). Individuals' interpretation of information is mediated by personal and societal values and priorities, personal experience and other contextual factors (Irwin and Wynne, 1996). As a consequence, an individual's awareness and concern either do not necessarily translate into action, or translate into limited action (Baron, 2006; Weber, 2006). This is also known as the 'value-action' or 'attitude-behaviour' gap (Blake, 1999) and has been shown in a small number of studies to be a significant barrier to adaptation action (e.g., Patt and Gwata, 2002).
2. Perceptions of climate change risks are differing. A small but growing literature addresses the psychological dimensions of evaluating long-term risk; most focuses on behaviour changes in relation to climate change mitigation policies. However, some studies have explored the behavioural foundations of adaptive responses, including the identification of thresholds, or points at which adaptive behaviour begins (e.g., Grothmann and Patt, 2005). Key findings from these studies point to different types of cognitive limits to adaptive responses to climate change. For example, Niemeyer et al. (2005) found that thresholds of rapid climate change may induce different individual responses influenced by trust in others (e.g., institutions, collective action, etc.), resulting in adaptive, non-adaptive, and maladaptive behaviours. Hansen et al. (2004) found evidence for a finite pool of worry among farmers in the Argentine Pampas. As concern about one type of risk increases, worry about other risks decreases. Consequently, concerns about violent conflict, disease and hunger, terrorism, and other risks may overshadow considerations about the impacts of climate change and adaptation. This work also indicates, consistently with findings in the wider climate change risk literature (e.g., Moser and Dilling, 2004), that individuals tend to prioritise the risks they face, focusing on those they consider - rightly or wrongly - to be the most significant to them at that particular point in time. Furthermore, a lack of experience of climate-related events may inhibit adequate responses. It has been shown, for instance, that the capacity to adapt among resource-dependent societies in southern Africa is high if based on adaptations to previous changes (Thomas et al., 2005). Although concern about climate change is widespread and high amongst publics in western societies, it is not 'here and now' or a pressing personal priority for most people (Lorenzoni and Pidgeon, 2006). Weber (2006) found that strong visceral reactions towards the risk of climate change are needed to provoke adaptive behavioural changes.
3. Perceptions of vulnerability and adaptive capacity are important. Psychological research, for example, has provided empirical evidence that those who perceive themselves to be vulnerable to environmental risks, or who perceive themselves to be victims of injustice, also perceive themselves to be more at risk from environmental hazards of all types (Satterfield et al., 2004). Furthermore, perceptions by the vulnerable of barriers to actually adapting do, in fact, limit adaptive actions, even when there are capacities and resources to adapt. Grothman and Patt (2005) examined populations living with flood risk in Germany and farmers dealing with drought risk in Zimbabwe in order to better understand cognitive constraints. They found that action was determined by both perceived abilities to adapt and observable capacities to adapt. They conclude that a divergence between perceived and actual adaptive capacity is a real barrier to adaptive action. Moser (2005) similarly finds that perceived barriers to action are a major constraint in coastal planning for sea-level rise in the United States.
4. Appealing to fear and guilt does not motivate appropriate adaptive behaviour. In fact, communications research has shown that appealing to fear and guilt does not succeed in fostering sustained engagement with the issue of climate change (Moser and Dilling, 2004). Analysis of print media portrayal of climate change demonstrates public confusion when scientific arguments are contrasted in a black-and-white, for-and-against manner (Boykoff and Boykoff, 2004; Carvalho and Burgess, 2005; Ereaut and Segnit, 2006). Calls for effective climate-change communication have focused on conveying a consistent, sound message, with the reality of anthropogenic climate change at its core. This, coupled with making climate change personally relevant through messages of practical advice on individual actions, helps to embed responses in people's locality. Visualisation imagery is being increasingly explored as a useful contribution to increasing the effectiveness of communication about climate change risks (e.g., Nicholson-Cole, 2005; Sheppard, 2005).
Overall, the psychological research reviewed here indicates that an individual's awareness of an issue, knowledge, personal experience, and a sense of urgency of being personally affected, constitute necessary but insufficient conditions for behaviour or policy change. Perceptions of risk, of vulnerability, motivation and capacity to adapt will also affect behavioural change. These perceptions vary among individuals and groups within populations. Some can act as barriers to adapting to climate change. Policymakers need to be aware of these barriers, provide structural support to overcome them, and concurrently work towards fostering individual empowerment and action.
Social and cultural limits to adaptation can be related to the different ways in which people and groups experience, interpret and respond to climate change. Individuals and groups may have different risk tolerances as well as different preferences about adaptation measures, depending on their worldviews, values and beliefs. Conflicting understandings can impede adaptive actions. Differential power and access to decision makers may promote adaptive responses by some, while constraining them for others. Thomas and Twyman (2005) analysed natural-resource policies in southern Africa and showed that even so-called community-based interventions to reduce vulnerability create excluded groups without access to decision-making. In addition, diverse understandings and prioritisations of climate change issues across different social and cultural groups can limit adaptive responses (Ford and Smit, 2004).
Most analyses of adaptation propose that successful adaptations involve marginal changes to material circumstances rather than wholesale changes in location and development paths. A few studies have examined the need for and potential for migration, resettlement and relocation as an adaptive strategy, for example, but the cultural implications of large-scale migration are not well understood and could represent significant limits to adaptation. Box 17.8 presents evidence that demonstrates that, while relocation and migration have been used as adaptation strategies in the past, there are often large social costs associated with these and unacceptable impacts in terms of human rights and sustainability. The possibility of migration as a response to climate change is still rarely broached in the literature on adaptation to climate change, perhaps because it is entirely outside the acceptable range of proposals (Orlove, 2005).
Although scientific research indicates that forest ecosystems in northern Canada are among those regions at greatest risk from
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