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Climate Science for Serving Society

pp 437-457

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Building Adaptive Capacity to Climate Change in Less Developed Countries

  • Maria Carmen LemosAffiliated withSchool of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan Email author 
  • , Arun AgrawalAffiliated withSchool of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan
  • , Hallie EakinAffiliated withSchool of Sustainability, Arizona State University
  • , Don R. NelsonAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, University of Georgia
  • , Nathan L. EngleAffiliated withSchool of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan
  • , Owen JohnsAffiliated withSchool of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan

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Abstract

This paper focuses on the relevance of adaptive capacity in the context of the increasing certainty that climate change impacts will affect human populations and different social groups substantially and differentially. Developing and building adaptive capacity requires a combination of interventions that address not only climate-related risks (specific capacities) but also the structural deficits (lack of income, education, health, political power, etc.—generic capacities) that shape vulnerability. We argue that bolstering both generic and specific adaptive capacities, with careful attention to minimizing the potential tensions between these two types of capacities, can help vulnerable groups maintain their ability to address risks in the long run at the same time as they respond effectively to short term climate impacts. We examine the relationship between generic and specific capacities, taking into consideration that they are not always positively related. We then propose a conceptual model describing positive and negative feedbacks between the two.

Keywords

Adaptive capacity Adaptive development Generic and specific capacity Livelihoods framework Vulnerability Climate variability and change