Risk, Resilience and Adaptation to Global Change

  • Shakespear Mudombi


Background: The significance and threat of global change is increasingly being acknowledged. Understanding and responding to it is of critical importance. Early action is more beneficial than delay. Responding to global change entails both adaptation and mitigation. This chapter focuses on the former. It sets out to contribute to the understanding of what global change is, and its implications for Africa in general and South Africa in particular. Understanding the risks that are present is vital for the formulation and implementation of appropriate responses to such risks. For South Africa, responding to global change is a priority and it is one of the grand challenges that have been identified in its policy documents. The chapter is based on extensive literature review. Methodology: An extensive literature review including policy documents and published scientific literature was conducted. Application/Relevance to systems analysis: Understanding and responding to global change requires the need to acknowledge that processes, risks and the impacts occur in multiple stressor and multiple scale contexts. The complexities associated with global change as well as the potential for maladaptation and unintended consequences motivate the need to apply systems thinking. Policy implications: South Africa as part of the global system, will also be impacted by global change and its associated risks. Hence, the need for the country to be proactive. Some of the factors that can promote resilience and adaptation to global change include: taking a “glocal” approach, promoting information generation and dissemination, enabling relevant and responsive institutions, promoting flexibility and learning, building the asset base of households and communities, promoting stakeholder buy-in and stewardship in programmes, enhancing ecological infrastructure, and forging partnerships and collaborations. The state and other stakeholders should strive to enable the creation of a favourable environment that can foster appropriate resilience and adaptation to global change. Conclusion: Strides are being made in terms of understanding and responding to global change. However, due to complexities involved, more effort is still needed to establish and further understand global change processes. There is need for more multi-disciplinary stakeholder partnerships in order to realise synergies. Continued effort should be directed at creating awareness and building positive perception of the need to adapt amongst various stakeholders. Proper assessment methodologies should be employed to evaluate various adaptation options before their implementation in order to avoid maladaptation. Global change should be embraced at the local level in the context of multiple stressors that tend to increase vulnerability.


Adaptation Risk Resilience Global change Climate change South Africa 


  1. Adger, W. N. (2000). Social and ecological resilience: Are they related? Progress in Human Geography, 24(3), 347–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adger, W. N. (2006). Vulnerability. Global Environmental Change, 16, 268–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Adger, W. N., Arnell, N. W., & Tompkins, E. L. (2005). Successful adaptation to climate change across scales. Global Environmental Change, 15, 77–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Adger, W. N., Dessai, S., Goulden, M., Hulme, M., Lorenzoni, I., Nelson, D. R., et al. (2009). Are there social limits to adaptation to climate change? Climatic Change, 93, 335–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Adger, W. N., Agrawala, S., Mirza, M. M. Q., Conde, C., O’Brien, K., Pulhin, J., Pulwarty, R., Smit, B., & Takahashi, K. (2007). Assessment of adaptation practices, options, constraints and capacity. Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. In: M. L. Parry, O. F. Canziani, J. P. Palutikof, P. J. van der Linden and C. E. Hanson, (Eds.), Contribution of working group II to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change (pp. 717–743). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Anderies, J. M., Folke, C., Walker, B., & Ostrom, E. (2013). Aligning key concepts for global change policy: Robustness, resilience, and sustainability. Ecology and Society, 18 (2). doi:
  7. Bahadur, A. V., Ibrahim, M., & Tanner, T. (2010). The resilience renaissance? Unpacking of resilience for tackling climate change and disasters. Institute of Development Studies: Strengthening Climate Resilience. Brighton.Google Scholar
  8. Barnett, J., & O’Neill, S. (2010). Maladaptation. Global Environmental Change, 20, 211–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Béné, C., Al-Hassan, R. M., Amarasinghe, O., Fong, P., Ocran, J., Onumah, E., et al. (2016). Is resilience socially constructed? Empirical evidence from Fiji, Ghana, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. Global Environmental Change, 38, 153–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Biagini, B., Bierbaum, R., Stults, M., Dobardzic, S., & McNeeley, S. M. (2014). A typology of adaptation actions: A global look at climate adaptation actions financed through the global environment facility. Global Environmental Change, 25, 97–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Camill, P. (2010). Global change. Nature Education Knowledge 3(10).Google Scholar
  12. Casale, M., Drimie, S., Quinlan, T., & Ziervogel, G. (2010). Understanding vulnerability in Southern Africa: comparative findings using a multiple-stressor approach in South Africa and Malawi. Regional Environmental Change, 10, 157–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Colvin, C., Cartwright, A., McKenzie, M., Dent, M., Maherry, A., & Mhlongo, T. (2015). Enhancing ecological infrastructure in the uMngeni catchment through private sector action and engagement. Green Fund Research Report.Google Scholar
  14. Cutter, S. L., Barnes, L., Berry, M., Burton, C., Evans, E., Tate, E., et al. (2008). A place based model for understanding community resilience to natural disasters. Global Environmental Change, 18, 598–606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Davis, C. L. (2011). Climate risk and vulnerability: A handbook for Southern Africa. Pretoria: Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.Google Scholar
  16. DEA. (2011). National climate change response white paper. Pretoria: Department of Environmental Affairs.Google Scholar
  17. DEA. (2012). 2nd South Africa environment outlook. A report on the state of the environment (Executive Summary). Pretoria: Department of Environmental Affairs.Google Scholar
  18. DST. n.d. Ten-Year innovation plan. Department of Science and Technology, Republic of South Africa.Google Scholar
  19. Engle, N. L. (2011). Adaptive capacity and its assessment. Global Environmental Change, 21, 647–656.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Eriksen, S. (2004). Building adaptive capacity in a ‘glocal’ world: Examples from Europe and Africa. The ESS Bulletin 2(2).Google Scholar
  21. Eriksen, S., & Kelly, P. M. (2007). Developing credible vulnerability indicators for climate adaptation policy assessment. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 12, 495–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Erisman, J. W., Brasseur, G., Ciais, P., van Eekeren, N., & Theis, T. L. (2015). Put people at the centre of global risk management. Nature, 519, 151–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fankhauser, S., Smith, B., & Tol, R. S. J. (1999). Weathering climate change: Some simple rules to guide adaptation decisions. Ecological Economics, 30, 67–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Folke, C. (2006). Resilience: The emergence of a perspective for social–ecological systems analyses. Global Environmental Change, 16, 253–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Fourie, J. -P., Ansorge, I., Backeberg, B., Cawthra, H. C., MacHutchon, M. R., & van Zyl, F. W. (2015). The Influence of wave action on coastal erosion along Monwabisi Beach, Cape Town. South African Journal of Geomatics, 4(2), 96–109.Google Scholar
  26. GGLN. (2014). Community resilience and vulnerability in South Africa. Good Governance Learning Network: State of Local Governance Publication. Cape Town.Google Scholar
  27. Grothmann, T., & Patt, A. (2005). Adaptive capacity and human cognition: The process of individual adaptation to climate change. Global Environmental Change, 15, 199–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. IGBP. (2016). Earth system definitions. International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP).
  29. Ikeme, J. (2003). Climate change adaptational deficiencies in developing countries: The Case of Sub-Saharan Africa. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 8, 29–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. IPCC. (2007). Summary for policymakers. In Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Joubert, L., & Martindale, L. (2013). Rising waters: Working together on Cape Town’s flooding. The Flooding in Cape Town under Climate Risk (FliCCR) Project: African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town.Google Scholar
  32. Klein, R. J. T., Nicholls, R. J., & Thomalla, F. (2004). Resilience to natural hazards: How useful is this concept? EVA Working Paper 9. Potsdam: Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.Google Scholar
  33. Leichenko, R. M., & O’brien, K. L. (2002). The dynamics of rural vulnerability to global change: The case of Southern Africa. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 7, 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mail & Guardian. (2014). Rain causes flooding Havoc in Jo’burg. Mail & Guardian Online.
  35. Midgley, G. F. (2011). Climate change, species and ecosystems. In Observation on environmental change in South Africa. Section 2. SUN MeDIA Stellenbosch.Google Scholar
  36. Mitchell, D. (2013). Risk and resilience: From good idea to good practice (A scoping study for the experts group on risk and resilience). WP 13/2013. OECD.Google Scholar
  37. Mitchell, T., & Harris, K. (2012). Resilience: A risk management approach. Overseas Development Institute: Background Note. London.Google Scholar
  38. Moore, B., Underdal, A., Lemke, P., & Loreau, M. (2001). The Amsterdam declaration on global change. In Challenges of a Changing Earth: Global Change Open Science Conference. Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  39. Moser, S. C., & Ekstrom, J. A. (2010). A framework to diagnose barriers to climate change adaptation. PNAS, 107(51), 22026–22031.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Muccione, V, & Schaepman, M. (2014). Global change. Terminology brief series. University Research Priority Program Global Change and Biodiversity. University of Zurich.Google Scholar
  41. Mudombi, S. (2014). Analysing the contribution of ICTs in addressing climate change amongst communal farmers from two districts of Zimbabwe. Pretoria: University of South Africa.
  42. Mudombi, S., Fabricius, C., Patt, A., & Bulitta, V. Z. (2017). The use of and obstacles to social learning in climate change adaptation initiatives in South Africa. Jàmbá: Journal of Disaster Risk Studies 9(1). doi:
  43. NAS. (2000). Global change ecosystems research. Washington, D.C: National Academy of Sciences.Google Scholar
  44. Nel, J. L., Le Maitre, D. C., Nel, D. C., Reyers, B., Archibald, S., van Wilgen, B. W., et al. (2014). Natural hazards in a changing world: A case for ecosystem-based management. PLoS ONE, 9(5), e95942. Scholar
  45. O’brien, K., Eriksen, A., Schjolden, A., & Nygard, L. (2004). What’s in a word? conflicting interpretations of vulnerability in climate change research. CICERO Working Paper 4. Oslo: Center for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO).Google Scholar
  46. OECD. (2014). Guidelines for resilience systems analysis. OECD Publishing.Google Scholar
  47. Rodina, L., & Harris, L. M. (2016). Resilience in South Africa’s urban water landscape. The Conversation Africa: Opinion Piece.Google Scholar
  48. SAEON. (2009). About SAEON. South African Environmental Observation Network.
  49. Schlesinger, W. H. (2006). Global change ecology. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 21(6), 348–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Smit, B., & Skinner, M. W. (2002). Adaptation options in agriculture to climate change: A typology. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 7, 85–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Smit, B., & Wandel, J. (2006). Adaptation, adaptive capacity and vulnerability. Global Environmental Change, 16, 282–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. SRC. n.d. Applying resilience thinking: Seven principles for building resilience in social-ecological systems. Stockholm Resilience Centre.Google Scholar
  53. SRC. n.d. (2015). Resilience dictionary. Stockholm Resilience Centre. Accessed May 15.
  54. Steffen, W., Sanderson, A., Tyson, P. D., Jäger, J., Matson, P. A., Moore, F. Oldfield, et al. (2004). Global change and the earth system: A planet under pressure (Executive summary). Berlin: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  55. Taylor, A., & Peter, C. (2014). Strengthening climate resilience in African cities: A framework for working with informality. Working Paper. African Centre for Cities, Climate and Development Knowledge Network.Google Scholar
  56. UNFCCC. (2007). Climate change: Impacts, vulnerabilities and adaptation in developing countries. Bonn: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.Google Scholar
  57. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. (2014). World urbanization prospects: The 2014 revision. CD-ROM Edition.
  58. Van Donk, M., & Gaidien, G. (2014). In search of community resilience. In Community Resilience and Vulnerability in South Africa. State of Local Governance Publication. Cape Town: Good Governance Learning Network.Google Scholar
  59. Van Huyssteen, E., Le Roux, A., & Van Niekerk, W. (2013). Analysing risk and vulnerability of South African settlements: Attempts, explorations and reflections. Jàmbá: Journal of Disaster Risk Studies 5(2). doi:
  60. Vogel, C. (2011). Climate change risk, adaptation and sustainability. In Observation on environmental change in South Africa. Section 1. SUN MeDIA Stellenbosch.Google Scholar
  61. WEF. (2016a). Resilience Insights. Geneva: Global Agenda on Risk & Resilience, World Economic Forum.Google Scholar
  62. WEF. (2016b). The global risks report 2016 (11th Edition). Geneva: World Economic Forum.Google Scholar
  63. WHO. (2014). Gender, climate change and health. Geneva: World Health Organization.Google Scholar
  64. World Bank. (2013). Building resilience: Integrating climate and disaster risk into development. Lessons from world bank group experience. Washington DC: The World Bank.Google Scholar
  65. WWF-SA. (2017). Scenarios for the future of water in South Africa. Cape Town: World Wide Fund for Nature—South Africa (WWF-SA).Google Scholar
  66. Ziervogel, G., Pelling, M., Cartwright, A., Chu, E., Deshpande, T., Harris, L., et al. (2017). Inserting rights and justice into urban resilience: A focus on everyday risk. Environment & Urbanization, 29(1), 123–138. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS)PretoriaSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations