Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 1739–1750 | Cite as

Barriers and opportunities for adapting to climate change on the North Coast of São Paulo, Brazil

  • Eliane Simões
  • Wilson C. de Sousa Junior
  • Débora M. de Freitas
  • Morena Mills
  • Allan Y. Iwama
  • Isabel Gonçalves
  • Débora Olivato
  • Pedro Fidelman
Original Article


This paper examines barriers and opportunities for climate change adaptation in an urban coastal setting where adaptation is in its infancy. It draws on a diagnostic framework as a foundation for identifying and organising barriers and opportunities in terms of three broad phases of the adaptation process, i.e. (1) understanding the problem, (2) planning adaptation options and (3) managing implementation of such options. Data come from the analysis of documents (e.g. policy, plans and reports) and a survey of 49 representatives from 42 organisations (e.g. government, environmental non-governmental organisations, businesses and local industry and professional associations). Nineteen barriers and/or opportunities pertaining to the different phases of the adaptation process were identified. Three of those barriers (i.e. competing priorities, existing management context and existing ecological context) are our additions to the initial list of common barriers proposed in the diagnostic framework. Barriers pertaining to the understanding phase were the most frequently noted by respondents. The understanding phase was also one which most of the barriers were nevertheless considered as opportunities. Emerging critical barriers and/or opportunities for climate change adaptation included perception of signal, availability and accessibility of information, existing management context and leadership. We propose that addressing these barriers and opportunities would involve improving perception about climate change and availability and accessibility of information, fostering anticipatory planned adaptation through the existing management context and developing leadership for adaptation. Findings from this study may prove useful to other jurisdictions, particularly those where climate adaptation is at its early stages of development.


Adaptation Barriers and opportunities Climate change Brazil 



This research was funded by CAPES/RedeLitoral (Project CAPES 417/2010). The authors would like to thank the participants who took part in this study. We also thank the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments.

Supplementary material

10113_2017_1133_MOESM1_ESM.docx (22 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 23 kb)


  1. Adger WN (2003) Social capital, collective action and adaptation to climate change. Econ Geogr 79:387–404. doi: 10.1007/978-3-531-92258-4_19 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adger WN, Arnell NW, Tompkins EL (2005) Successful adaptation to climate change across scales. Glob Environ Change 15:77–86. doi: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2004.12.005 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baker I, Peterson A, Brown G, McAlpinea C (2012) Local government response to the impacts of climate change: an evaluation of local climate adaptation plans. Landsc Urban Plan 107(2):127–136. doi: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2012.05.009 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barbi F, Ferreira LC (2013) Risks and political responses to climate change in Brazilian coastal cities. J Risk Res. doi: 10.1080/13669877.2013.788548 Google Scholar
  5. Barnett J, Graham S, Mortreux C, Fincher R, Waters E, Hurlimann A (2014) A local coastal adaptation pathway. Nat Clim Change 4(12):1103–1108. doi: 10.1038/nclimate2383 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Biesbroek GR, Klostermann JEM, Termeer CJAM, Kabat P (2013) On the nature of barriers to climate change adaptation. Reg Environ Change 13:1119–1129. doi: 10.1007/s10113-013-0421-y CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Biesbroek GR, Termeer CJAM, Klostermann JEM, Kabat P (2014) Analytical lenses on barriers in the governance of climate change adaptation. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 19(7):1011–1032. doi: 10.1007/s11027-013-9457-z CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bradley M, Van Putten I, Sheaves M (2015) The pace and progress of adaptation: marine climate change preparedness in Australia’s coastal communities. Mar Policy 53:13–20. doi: 10.1016/j.marpol.2014.11.004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brasil - Law nº 7.661 (1988) Plano Nacional de Gerenciamento Costeiro - PNGC. Available at
  10. Brasil. Ministério do Meio Ambiente (MMA) (2008) Macrodiagnóstico da Zona Costeira e Marinha do Brasil. MMA, BrasíliaGoogle Scholar
  11. Brasil-Plano Nacional de Adaptação à Mudança do Clima–PNA (2016) Ministério do Meio Ambiente, Portaria 150. Available at
  12. Burrows MT, Schoeman DS, Buckley LB, Moore P (2011) The pace of shifting climate in marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Science 334:652–655. doi: 10.1126/science.1210288 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cooper JAG, Pile J (2014) The adaptation-resistance spectrum: a classification of contemporary adaptation approaches to climate-related coastal change. Ocean Coast Manag 94:90–98. doi: 10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2013.09.006 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. De Freitas DM, Smith TF, Stokes A (2013) Planning for uncertainty: local scale coastal governance. Ocean Coast Manag 86:72–74. doi: 10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2013.10.011 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Di Giulio GM, Neumann SS, Viglio JE, Ferreira LD, Choy DL (2014) Propostas metodológicas em pesquisas sobre risco e adaptação: experiências no Brasil e na Austrália. Ambiente Soc 17(4):35–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dutra LXC, Bustamante RH, Sporne I, Putten IV, Dichmont CM, Ligtermoet E, Sheaves M, Deng RA (2015) Organizational drivers that strengthen adaptive capacity in the coastal zone of Australia. Ocean Coast Manag 109:64–76. doi: 10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2015.02.008 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Eisenack K, Moser SC, Hoffmann E, Klein RJT, Oberlack C, Pechan A, Rotter M, Termeer CJAM (2014) Explaining and overcoming barriers to climate change adaptation. Nat Clim Change 4:867–872. doi: 10.1038/nclimate2350 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. European Commission (2007) Adapting to climate change in Europe—options for EU action. Green Paper, EC, Brussels. COM(2007) 354 finalGoogle Scholar
  19. Evans LS, Hicks CC, Fidelman P, Tobin RC, Perry AL (2013) Future scenarios as a research tool: investigating climate change impacts, adaptation options and outcomes for the great barrier reef, Australia. Hum Ecol 41(6):841–857. doi: 10.1007/s10745-013-9601-0 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Evans LS, Hicks CC, Adger WN, Barnett J, Perry AL, Fidelman P, Tobin R, Clifton J (2016) Structural and psycho-social limits to climate change adaptation in the great barrier reef region. PLoS One 11(3):e0150575. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0150575 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fidelman PIJ, Leitch AM, Nelson DR (2013) Unpacking multilevel adaptation to climate change in the great barrier reef, Australia. Glob Environ Change 23(4):800–812. doi: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2013.02.016 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ford JD, King D (2015) A framework for examining adaptation readiness. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 20(4):505–526. doi: 10.1007/s11027-013-9505-8 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ford JD, Berrang-Ford L, Paterson J (2011) A systematic review of observed climate change adaptation in developed nations. Clim Change 106:327–336. doi: 10.1007/s10584-011-0045-5 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Füssel HM (2007) Adaptation planning for climate change: concepts, assessment approaches and key lessons. Sustain Sci 2:265–275. doi: 10.1007/s11625-007-0032-y CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gibbs MT (2015) Coastal climate risk and adaptation studies: the importance of understanding different classes of problem. Ocean Coast Manag 103:9–13. doi: 10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2014.10.018 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gupta J, Termeer C, Klostermann J, Meijerink S (2010) The adaptive capacity wheel: a method to assess the inherent characteristics of institutions to enable the adaptive capacity of society. Environ Sci Policy 13(6):459–471. doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2010.05.006 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. IBGE (2011) Demographic census 2010. Rio de Janeiro, 2011. Accessed 20 July 2015
  28. IBGE (2015) IBGE Cidades. Accessed 17 July 2015
  29. Inouye CEN, De Sousa WC, De Freitas DM, Simões E (2015) Modelling the spatial dynamics of urban growth and land use changes in the north coast of São Paulo, Brazil. Ocean Coast Manag 108:147–157. doi: 10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2014.12.016 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. IPCC (2014) Summary for policymakers. In: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Field, C.B., V.R. Barros, D.J. Dokken, K.J. Mach, M.D. Mastrandrea, T.E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K.L. Ebi, Y.O. Estrada, R.C. Genova, B. Girma, E.S. Kissel, A.N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P.R. Mastrandrea, and L.L. White (eds)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, pp 1–32Google Scholar
  31. Iwama AY, Batistella M, Ferreira LC (2014) Geotechnical risks and social vulnerability in coastal areas: inequalities and climate change. Ambiente Soc 17(4):251–274. doi: 10.1590/1809-4422ASOC1149V1742014 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Iwama AY, Batistella M, Ferreira Lúcia C, Alves DS, Ferreira Leila C (2016) Risk, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change: an interdisciplinary approach. Ambiente Soc 19(2):93–116. doi: 10.1590/1809-4422ASOC137409V1922016 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kettle NP, Dow K (2014) Cross-level differences and similarities in coastal climate change adaptation planning. Environ Sci Policy 44:279–290. doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2014.08.013 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Koga-Vicente A, Nunes LH (2011) Impactos socioambientais associados à precipitação em municípios do litoral paulista. Geografia 36(3):571–588. ISSN 1983-8700.
  35. Lindell MK, Hwang SN (2008) Households’ perceived personal risk and responses in a multihazard environment. Risk Anal 28(2):539–556. doi: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2008.01032.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Luers AL, Moser SC (2006) Preparing for the impacts of climate change in California: opportunities and constraints for adaptation. California Climate Change Center White PaperGoogle Scholar
  37. Lynch AH, Tryhorn L, Abramson R (2008) Working at the boundary: facilitating interdisciplinarity in climate change adaptation research. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 89:169–179. doi: 10.1175/BAMS-89-2-169 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Martins RD, Ferreira LC (2011) Governing climate change: urbanization, vulnerability and challenges for the north coast of the state of São Paulo, Brazil. Sustentabilidade em Debate Brasília 2(2): 55–82. ISSN 2179-9067.
  39. McSweeney C, New M, Lizcano G, Xu L (2010) The UNDP climate change country profiles: improving the accessibility of observed and projected climate information for studies of climate change in developing countries. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 91:157–166. doi: 10.1175/2009BAMS2826.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Measham TG, Preston BL, Smith TF, Brooke C, Gorddard R, Withycombe G, Morrison C (2011) Adapting to climate change through local municipal planning: barriers and challenges. Mitig Adapt Strat Glob Change 16(8):889–909. doi: 10.1007/s11027-011-9301-2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Moser SC, Ekstrom JA (2010) A framework to diagnose barriers to climate change adaptation. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 107:22026–22031. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1007887107 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Nelson DR, Adger NW, Brown K (2007) Adaptation to environmental change: contributions of a resilience framework. Annu Rev Environ Resour 32:395–419CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. PROVIA (2013) PROVIA guidance on assessing vulnerability, impacts and adaptation to climate change. Consultation document, United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi, KenyaGoogle Scholar
  44. Runharr H, Mees H, Wardekk A, van der Sluijs J, Driesse PPJ (2012) Adapation to climate change-related risk in Dutch urban areas: stimuli and barriers. Reg Environ Change 12:777–790. doi: 10.1007/s10113-012-0292-7) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sakai RO, Cartacho DL, Arasaki E, Alfredini P, Pezzoli A, De Sousa WC Jr, Rosso M, Magni L (2013) Extreme events assessment methodology coupling debris flow, flooding and tidal levels in the coastal floodplain of the San Paulo North Coast (Brazil). Int J Geo Sci 4(5B):30–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sales RFM Jr (2009) Vulnerability and adaptation of coastal communities to climate variability and sea-level rise: their implications for integrated coastal management in Cavite City, Philippines. Ocean Coast Manag 52:395–404. doi: 10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2009.04.007 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. São Paulo (Estado) (2009) Law nº. 13.798. Política Estadual de Mudanças Climáticas—PEMC. Accessed 26 Dec 2015
  48. Shaw J, Danese C, Stocker L (2013) Spanning the boundary between climate science and coastal communities: opportunities and challenges. Ocean Coast Manag 86:80–87. doi: 10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2012.11.008 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Small C, Nicholls RJ (2003) A global analysis of human settlement in coastal zones. J Coast Res 19(584):599Google Scholar
  50. Spence A, Poortinga W, Butler C, Pidgeon N (2011) Perceptions of climate change and willingness to save energy related to flood experience. Nat Clim Change 1:46–49. doi: 10.1038/nclimate1059 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Taylor D, Olwig MF, Chhetri N (2012) Adaptation as innovation, innovation as adaptation: an institutional approach to climate change. Appl Geogr 33:107–111. doi: 10.1016/j.apgeog.2011.10.011 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Teixeira LR (2013) Megaprojetos no litoral norte paulista: o papel dos grandes empreendimentos de infraestrutura na transformação regional. Tese Doutorado em Ambiente e Sociedade. NEPAM-IFCH, CampinasGoogle Scholar
  53. Tribbia J, Moser SC (2008) More than information: what coastal managers need to plan for climate change. Environ Sci Policy 11:315–328. doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2008.01.003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Vogel C, Moser SC, Kasperson RE, Dabelko GD (2007) Linking vulnerability, adaptation, and resilience science to practice: pathways, players, and partnerships. Glob Environ Change 17:349–364. doi: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2007.05.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eliane Simões
    • 1
  • Wilson C. de Sousa Junior
    • 1
  • Débora M. de Freitas
    • 1
    • 2
  • Morena Mills
    • 3
  • Allan Y. Iwama
    • 1
  • Isabel Gonçalves
    • 1
  • Débora Olivato
    • 1
  • Pedro Fidelman
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Water Resources and EnvironmentAeronautics Institute of TechnologySão José dos CamposBrazil
  2. 2.Biosciences InstituteSão Paulo State University-UNESPSão VicenteBrazil
  3. 3.Department of Life SciencesImperial College LondonAscotUK
  4. 4.Sustainability Research CentreUniversity of the Sunshine CoastSippy DownsAustralia

Personalised recommendations