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Sustainability 2019, 11(2), 356;

Characteristics of Transformational Adaptation in Climate-Land-Society Interactions

United Nations Climate Change Secretariat, Platz der Vereinte Nationen 1, 53113 Bonn, Germany
Mercycorps, 45 SW Ankney St., Portland, OR 97204, USA
Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit, Lincoln University, Ellesmere Jct Rd, Lincoln 7647, New Zealand
Faculty of Arts, University of Regina, 3737 Wascana Pkwy, Regina, SK S4S 0A2, Canada
Mott MacDonald, 22 Station Rd, Cambridge CB1 2JD, UK
EcoMetrix Solutions Group, Polebridge, MO 59928, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 7 October 2018 / Revised: 25 December 2018 / Accepted: 25 December 2018 / Published: 11 January 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transforming Development and Disaster Risk)
Full-Text   |   PDF [340 KB, uploaded 11 January 2019]


Countries across the world aspire towards climate resilient sustainable development. The interacting processes of climate change, land change, and unprecedented social and technological change pose significant obstacles to these aspirations. The pace, intensity, and scale of these sizeable risks and vulnerabilities affect the central issues in sustainable development: how and where people live and work, access to essential resources and ecosystem services needed to sustain people in given locations, and the social and economic means to improve human wellbeing in the face of disruptions. This paper addresses the question: What are the characteristics of transformational adaptation and development in the context of profound changes in land and climate? To explore this question, this paper contains four case studies: managing storm water runoff related to the conversion of rural land to urban land in Indonesia; using a basket of interventions to manage social impacts of flooding in Nepal; combining a national glacier protection law with water rights management in Argentina; and community-based relocation in response to permafrost thaw and coastal erosion in Alaska. These case studies contribute to understanding characteristics of adaptation which is commensurate to sizeable risks and vulnerabilities to society in changing climate and land systems. Transformational adaptation is often perceived as a major large-scale intervention. In practice, the case studies in this article reveal that transformational adaptation is more likely to involve a bundle of adaptation interventions that are aimed at flexibly adjusting to change rather than reinforcing the status quo in ways of doing things. As a global mosaic, transformational change at a grand scale will occur through an inestimable number of smaller steps to adjust the central elements of human systems proportionate to the changes in climate and land systems. Understanding the characteristics of transformational adaptation will be essential to design and implement adaptation that keeps society in step with reconfiguring climate and land systems as they depart from current states. View Full-Text
Keywords: climate change; transformational adaptation; development; risk; climate-land-society interactions; urban flooding; ecosystem service; financial services; glacier; permafrost thaw; managed retreat climate change; transformational adaptation; development; risk; climate-land-society interactions; urban flooding; ecosystem service; financial services; glacier; permafrost thaw; managed retreat
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Warner, K.; Zommers, Z.; Wreford, A.; Hurlbert, M.; Viner, D.; Scantlan, J.; Halsey, K.; Halsey, K.; Tamang, C. Characteristics of Transformational Adaptation in Climate-Land-Society Interactions. Sustainability 2019, 11, 356.

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