Beyond generic adaptive capacity: exploring the adaptation space of the water supply and wastewater sector of the Stockholm region, Sweden

Abstract

This paper examines the processes by which the generic adaptive capacity of a system is translated into adaptation to climate change, what form it takes, and what factors facilitate or restrain such processes. This is done by an in-depth analysis of climate change adaptation in the Water supply and Wastewater (WW) sector of the Stockholm region. Observed adaptations are categorized in terms of building adaptive capacity and implementing adaptive decisions, and these measures are analyzed using a model of the adaptation process based on organizational learning theories. In particular, the concept of an organization’s actual adaptation space is defined and used as a means to understand the adaptation options that different WW organizations can pursue, as well as why such options might be pursued. The paper finds that most adaptation measures in the WW sector of the Stockholm region are aimed at building the adaptive capacity of the sector. It also finds that the extent to which adaptation measures can be pursued by the WW organizations is determined principally by how able the organization is to justify the additional resources required for adaptation. The analysis shows that there are two main routes to address this: use of climate knowledge to argue that adaptation is needed, and reference to rules and regulations to show that it is required.

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Acknowledgements

This article was made possible through funding from Mistra (the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research) through the Swedish Research Programme on Climate, Impacts and Adaptation (Mistra-SWECIA). We thank our colleagues at the Stockholm Environment Institute: Richard Klein, Måns Nilsson, Kathryn Furlong, Johanna Ulmanen, Mats Lannerstad, Tom Gill and the anonymous reviewers for their comments, which considerably helped to improve this paper. Last but not least we are very grateful to all the respondents from Käppala, Roslagsvatten, Stockholm Vatten and Norrvatten who generously gave their time and earnest answers to our questions.

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Correspondence to Peter M. Rudberg.

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Rudberg, P.M., Wallgren, O. & Swartling, Å.G. Beyond generic adaptive capacity: exploring the adaptation space of the water supply and wastewater sector of the Stockholm region, Sweden. Climatic Change 114, 707–721 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-012-0453-1

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Keywords

  • Climate Change
  • Adaptive Capacity
  • Climate Change Impact
  • Organizational Learning
  • Adaptation Measure