, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 223-251
Date: 28 Jul 2014

An Anatomy of Adaptation to Climate Change and Variability

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Adaptation to climate variability and change is important both for impact assessment (to estimate adaptations which are likely to occur) and for policy development (to advise on or prescribe adaptations). This paper proposes an "anatomy of adaptation" to systematically specify and differentiate adaptations, based upon three questions: (i) adapt to what? (ii) who or what adapts? and (iii) how does adaptation occur? Climatic stimuli include changes in long-term mean conditions and variability about means, both current and future, and including extremes. Adaptation depends fundamentally on the characteristics of the system of interest, including its sensitivities and vulnerabilities. The nature of adaptation processes and forms can be distinguished by numerous attributes including timing, purposefulness, and effect. The paper notes the contribution of conceptual and numerical models and empirical studies to the understanding of adaptation, and outlines approaches to the normative evaluation of adaptation measures and strategies.