Ford, J.D., Tilleard, S.E., Berrang-Ford, L., Araos, M., Biesbroek, R., Lesnikowski, A.C., MacDonald, G.K., Hsu, A., Chen, C., Bizikova, L. (2016) Big data has big potential for applications to climate change adaptation. PNASe. 113(39). 10729-10732.
The capacity to collect and analyze massive amounts of data is transforming research in the natural and social sciences (1). And yet, the climate change adaptation community has largely overlooked these developments. Here, we examine how “big data” can inform adaptation research and decision-making and outline what’s needed from the adaptation community to maximize this opportunity. We contend that careful application of big data could revolutionize our understanding of how to manage the risks of climate change.
Ford, J.D., Cameron, L., Rubis, J., Maillet, M., Nakashima, D., Willox, A.C., and Pearce, T. (2016) Including indigenous knowledge and experience in IPCC assessment reports. Nature Climate Change. 6, 349-353.
The IPCC is the leading international body for the assessment of climate change, forming the interface between science, policy and global politics. Indigenous issues have been under-represented in previous IPCC assessments. In this Perspective, we analyse how indigenous content is covered and framed in the Working Group II (WGII) portion of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). We find that although there is reference to indigenous content in WGII, which increased from the Fourth Assessment Report, the coverage is general in scope and limited in length, there is little critical engagement with indigenous knowledge systems, and the historical and contextual complexities of indigenous experiences are largely overlooked. The development of culturally relevant and appropriate adaptation policies requires more robust, nuanced and appropriate inclusion and framing of indigenous issues in future assessment reports, and we outline how this can be achieved.
Lesnikowski, A., Ford, J.D., Biesbroek, R., Berrang-Ford, L., and Heymann J.S. (2016). National-level progress on adaptation. Nature Climate Change. 6, 261-264.
It is increasingly evident that adaptation will figure prominently in the post-2015 United Nations climate change agreement. As adaptation obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change evolve, more rigorous approaches to measuring adaptation progress among parties will be critical. In this Letter we elaborate on an emerging area of research referred to as ‘adaptation tracking’, which has potential to inform development of a global adaptation monitoring framework. We evaluate this potential by presenting evidence on policy change for 41 high-income countries between 2010 and 2014. We examine whether countries that were in early stages of adaptation planning in 2010 are making progress to close adaptation gaps, and how the landscape of adaptation in these countries has evolved. In total we find an 87% increase in reported adaptation policies and measures, and evidence that implementation of concrete adaptation initiatives is growing. Reflecting on the strengths and challenges of this early methodology, we further discuss how adaptation tracking practices could guide development of a robust framework for monitoring global adaptation progress and inform future research on policy change across countries.
Ford, J.D., McDowell, G., and Pearce, T. (2015). The adaptation challenge in the Arctic. Nature Climate Change. 5, 1046-1053.
It is commonly asserted that human communities in the Arctic are highly vulnerable to climate change, with the magnitude of projected impacts limiting their ability to adapt. At the same time, an increasing number of field studies demonstrate significant adaptive capacity. Given this paradox, we review climate change adaptation, resilience and vulnerability research to identify and characterize the nature and magnitude of the adaptation challenge facing the Arctic. We find that the challenge of adaptation in the Arctic is formidable, but suggest that drivers of vulnerability and barriers to adaptation can be overcome, avoided or reduced by individual and collective efforts across scales for many, if not all, climate change risks.
Ford, J.D., Berrang-Ford, L., Biesbroek, R., Araos, M., Austin, S.E., and Lesnikowski L. (2015) Adaptation tracking for a post-2015 climate agreement. Nature Climate Change. 5, 967-969.
A post-2015 climate agreement will require systematic approaches for tracking adaptation progress across Parties to the UNFCC. A number of steps need to be taken to improve adaptation measurement and reporting.
Berrang-Ford, L., Ford, J., and Patterson, J. Are we adapting to climate change? Global Environmental Change (21), 25-33
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.
Ford, J. et al. (2011). A systematic review of observed climate change adaptation in developed nations. Climatic Change 106(2), 327-336.
We develop and apply a systematic mixed-methods literature review methodology to identify and characterize how climate change adaptation is taking place in developed nations. We find limited evidence of adaptation action. Where interventions are being implemented and reported on, they are typically in sectors that are sensitive to climate impacts, are most common at the municipal level, facilitated by higher-level government interventions, with responses typically institutional in nature. There is negligible description of adaptation taking place with respect to vulnerable groups, with reporting unequal by region and sector. The methodology offers important insights for meta-analyses in climate change scholarship and can be used for monitoring progress in adaptation over time.
James D. Ford, E. C. H. Keskitalo, Tanya Smith, Tristan Pearce, Lea Berrang-Ford, Frank Duerden, Barry Smit (2010). Case study and analogue methodologies in climate change vulnerability research. WIRE’s Climate Change 1(3).
Assessing vulnerability is an important component of human dimensions of climate change (HDCC) research. Vulnerability assessments identify and characterize who and what are sensitive to climatic risks and why, characterize adaptive capacity and its determinants, and identify opportunities for adaptation. This paper examines the importance of case study and analogue methodologies in vulnerability research, reviews the historical evolution of the two methodologies in the HDCC field, and identifies ways in which they can be used to increase our understanding of vulnerability.Case studies involve in-depth place-based research that focuses on a particular exposure unit (e.g., community, industry, etc.) to characterize vulnerability and its determinants. Temporal analogues use past and present experiences and responses to climatic variability, change and extremes to provide insights for vulnerability to climate change; spatial analogues involve conducting research in one region and identifying parallels to how another region might be affected by climate change. Vulnerability research that uses case studies and analogues can help to develop an understanding of the determinants of vulnerability and how they interact, and identify opportunities to reduce vulnerability and enhance adaptive capacity to current and future climate risks. This information can assist policy makers in developing adaptation plans and to mainstream climate change adaptation into other policy- and decision-making processes.
Ford, J., Smit, B., and Wandel, J. (2006). Vulnerability to climate change in the Arctic: A case study from Arctic Bay, Nunavut. Global Environmental Change, 16 (2), 145-160.
This paper develops a vulnerability-based approach to characterize the human implications of climate change in Arctic Bay, Canada. It focuses on community vulnerabilities associated with resource harvesting and the processes through which people adapt to them in the context of livelihood assets, constraints, and outside influences. Inuit in Arctic Bay have demonstrated significant adaptability in the face of changing climate-related exposures. This adaptability is facilitated by traditional Inuit knowledge, strong social networks, flexibility in seasonal hunting cycles, some modern technologies, and economic support. Changing Inuit livelihoods, however, have undermined certain aspects of adaptive capacity, and have resulted in emerging vulnerabilities in certain sections of the community.
Ford, J., and Smit, B. (2004). A framework for assessing the vulnerability of communities in the Canadian Arctic to risks associated with climate change. Arctic, 57(4), 389-400.
Adaptation to climate change is recognized as an important policy issue by international bodies such as the United Nations and by various national governments. Initiatives to identify adaptation needs and to improve adaptive capacity increasingly start with an assessment of the vulnerability of the system of interest, in terms of who and what are vulnerable, to what stresses, in what way, and what capacity exists to adapt to changing risks. Notwithstanding the scholarship on climate change itself, there are few studies on the nature of Arctic communities’ vulnerability to climate-change risks. We review existing literature on implications of climate change for Arctic communities, develop a conceptual model of vulnerability, and present an analytical approach to assessing climate hazards and coping strategies in Arctic communities. Vulnerability is conceptualized as a function of exposure to climatic stresses and the adaptive capacity to cope with these stresses. The analytical framework employs place-specific case studies involving community residents and integrates information from multiple sources, both to document current exposures and adaptations and to characterize future exposures and adaptive capacity.
Research by the @ccadapt team is cited in 17 chapters of IPCC AR5 WGII.