Natural Hazards

, Volume 58, Issue 2, pp 811–840 | Cite as

First- and second-order adaptation to natural hazards and extreme events in the context of climate change

  • Jörn BirkmannEmail author
Original Paper


This paper deals with coping and adaptation processes to natural hazards and (potential) climate change impacts. Selected response measures to natural hazards are critically reviewed with respect to the actual and potential consequences that these measures might imply for additional adaptation needs and changes within social-ecological systems. In this context, the author introduces the concept of first- and second-order adaptation processes in order to underline the cascade process that adaptation implies, the potentials for failure, and the limits of adaptation. Important aspects of first- and second-order adaptation processes as well as the issue of the limits of adaptation are illustrated based on observations and empirical work conducted in Vietnam. In its final part, the paper discusses the findings in light of selected theoretical approaches that might help to understand how stabilization and destabilization processes are influenced or even triggered by adaptation measures.


Risk management Adaptation Extreme events Vulnerability Relocation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS)United Nations UniversityBonnGermany

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