Conceptual Framework
Socio-Geographic Adaptive Capacity

Adaptive Capacity

Adaptive capacity is the ability of a system to manage gradual and incremental changes, though such long-term changes are often punctuated by extreme events that require short-term coping mechanisms. At a sub-national scale, prior analyses of adaptive capacity have drawn on elements of the sustainable livelihoods approach to include multiple and interacting components of human-environment systems, including social, human, financial, physical, and natural capital. A limitation of such approaches to climate change adaptation is that while household livelihoods are taken as the locus of both impact and adaptation, their treatment is limited to narrowly technical behaviors and economic and agro-technical characteristics of the household. A narrow focus on household economic assets (i.e., financial capital) and technical knowledge (e.g., one component of human capital) neglects the central roles of social capital and collective action which contribute to interdependence in adaptive activities among households, communities, and institutions. The inclusion of formal and informal institutions in climate change adaptation research is one of the primary objectives of our research collaboratory.

Socio-Geographic Adaptive Capacity

Socio-geographic adaptive capacity highlights the interdependence of adaptation dynamics between socioeconomic and cultural groups and across environmental and institutional contexts. Our investigation of socio-geographic adaptive capacity is scale-dependent and concerned with both reactive and anticipatory adaptations through the lenses of:

  • people's perceptions of recent changes in climatic variability and anticipation of future climate change;
  • historical and contemporary strategies for coping with and managing variability, as an approximation of the direction, type, and scale of likely future climate-driven adaptation;
  • the interaction of local knowledge and local institutions in shaping individual and collective responses to changes in climatic variability; and
  • projections of regional climate that permit an assessment of climate-related stresses that contribute to the development of local and regional adaptation scenarios.