Are we adapting to Climate Change?

2010 October 25

Berrang-Ford, L., Ford, J., and Patterson, J. Global Environmental Change (21), 25-33. Find PDF.

Human systems will have to adapt to climate change. Understanding of the magnitude of the adaptation challenge at a global scale, however, is incomplete, constrained by a limited understanding of if and how adaptation is taking place. Here we develop and apply a methodology to track and characterize adaptation action; we apply these methods to the peer-reviewed, English-language literature. Our results challenge a number of common assumptions about adaptation while supporting others: (1) Considerable research on adaptation has been conducted yet the majority of studies report on vulnerability assessments and natural systems (or intentions to act), not adaptation actions. (2) Climate change is rarely the sole or primary motivator for adaptation action. (3) Extreme events are important adaptation stimuli across regions. (4) Proactive adaptation is the most commonly reported adaptive response, particularly in developed nations. (5) Adaptation action is more frequently reported in developed nations, with middle income countries underrepresented and low-income regions dominated by reports from a small number of countries. (6) There is limited reporting on adaptations being developed to take advantage of climate change or focusing on women, elderly, or children.

3 Responses leave one →
  1. November 4, 2010

    Dear authors, I found the approach of the article very interesting. Yet, given the high uncertainty of the way in which climate change may affect our societies and ecosystems, and when this may happen, even more research should focus on how in the past (recent, historic as well as pre-historic past) CC adapttaion took place, and find out about mankind’s and ecosystem’s capability to adapt, physically and mentally. Some efforts have already been made in research and promotion of adaptability, and I believe that this is a crucial entry point for any adaptation strategy.
    Thank you for the opportunity

  2. James Ford permalink
    November 8, 2010

    In response ot Dr Siebert, we definitely agree with the comment. A key feature of our empirical research is working with communities using the past as an entry point for exploring how future climate change may affect societies. If interested in reading more, we have an article on this is WIREs climate change in 2010 in the publications section of this website


  3. April 1, 2011

    Dear authors,

    Just to let you know that we’ve featured your article this month in AgClim Letters, our science-policy bulletin. You can see it here: – and there’s a link to subscribe to future bulletins at the end of the post.

    CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS