Adaptation to climate change in the transport sector: a review of actions and actors

  • Klaus EisenackEmail author
  • Rebecca Stecker
  • Diana Reckien
  • Esther Hoffmann


This paper identifies the literature that deals with adaptation to climate change in the transport sector. It presents a systematic review of the adaptations suggested in the literature. Although it is frequently claimed that this socially and economically important sector is particularly vulnerable to climate change, there is comparatively little research into its adaptation. The 63 sources we found are analysed following an action framework of adaptation. This distinguishes different adaptational functions and means of adaptation. By an open coding procedure, a total of 245 adaptations are found and classified. The paper shows a broad diversity of interdependent actors to be relevant—ranging from transportation providers to public and private actors and households. Crucial actors are hybrid in terms of being public or private. A substantial share of the identified adaptations follows a top-down adaptation policy pattern where a public or hybrid operator initiates action that affects private actors. Most of the exceptions from this pattern are technical or engineering measures. Identified adaptations mostly require institutional means, followed by technical means, and knowledge. Generally, knowledge on adapting transport to climate change is still in a stage of infancy. The existing literature either focuses on overly general adaptations, or on detailed technical measures. Further research is needed on the actual implementation of adaptation, and on more precise institutional instruments that fill the gap between too vague and too site-specific adaptations.


Infrastructure Mode of transportation Public sector adaptation Business sector adaptation 



We want to thank Julia Dinkelacker, Nils Marscheider, Stefan Lewandowski, Michaelle Nintecheu, and Micha Steinhäuser for their support in coding the adaptations. This is a work of the Chameleon Research Group (, made possible by the German Ministry for Education and Research under grant 01UU0910 in the FONA program (social-ecological research).


Adaptation in the transport sector: peer-reviewed

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Klaus Eisenack
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rebecca Stecker
    • 1
  • Diana Reckien
    • 2
  • Esther Hoffmann
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsCarl von Ossietzky University OldenburgOldenburgGermany
  2. 2.Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact ResearchPotsdamGermany
  3. 3.Institute for Ecological Economy ResearchBerlinGermany

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