Climatic Change

, Volume 133, Issue 1, pp 113–127 | Cite as

Adaptation and transformation

  • Mark PellingEmail author
  • Karen O’Brien
  • David Matyas


Transformation as an adaptive response to climate change opens a range of novel policy options. Used to describe responses that produce non-linear changes in systems or their host social and ecological environments, transformation also raises distinct ethical and procedural questions for decision-makers. Expanding adaptation to include transformation foregrounds questions of power and preference that have so far been underdeveloped in adaptation theory and practice. We build on David Harvey’s notion of activity space to derive a framework and research agenda for climate change adaptation seen as a political decision-point and as an opportunity for transformation, incremental adjustment or resistance to change in development pathway. Decision-making is unpacked through the notion of the activity space into seven coevolving sites: the individual, technology, livelihoods, discourse, behaviour, the environment and institutions. The framework is tested against practitioner priorities to define an agenda that can make coherent advances in research and practice on climate change adaptation.


Social Contract Climate Change Adaptation Transformational Change Disaster Risk Management Transformative Learning 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.King’s College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.University of OsloOsloNorway
  3. 3.Save the Children InternationalLondonUK

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