, Volume 78, Issue 1, pp 135-156

Learning to Adapt: Organisational Adaptation to Climate Change Impacts

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Abstract

Analysis of human adaptation to climate change should be based on realistic models of adaptive behaviour at the level of organisations and individuals. The paper sets out a framework for analysing adaptation to the direct and indirect impacts of climate change in business organisations with new evidence presented from empirical research into adaptation in nine case-study companies. It argues that adaptation to climate change has many similarities with processes of organisational learning. The paper suggests that business organisations face a number of obstacles in learning how to adapt to climate change impacts, especially in relation to the weakness and ambiguity of signals about climate change and the uncertainty about benefits flowing from adaptation measures. Organisations rarely adapt ‘autonomously’, since their adaptive behaviour is influenced by policy and market conditions, and draws on resources external to the organisation. The paper identifies four adaptation strategies that pattern organisational adaptive behaviour.