Limits to Climate Change Adaptation: Key Findings, 4pp, factsheet.


While 'adaptation barriers' are “obstacles that can be overcome with concerted effort”, 'adaptation limits' describe situations where particular climate change costs or outcomes cannot be avoided, only transcended. Limits to adaptation are often classified as ecological, economic, technological and/or social in nature. This factsheet presents the key insights from a project that conducted six regional case studies of locations or systems where adaptation seems likely to reach its limits, in order to explore the underlying causes and potential to transcend these limits. The six case studies were: 1) the Great Barrier Reef [factsheet/full report], 2) Alpine areas [factsheet/full report], 3) the Coorong and Lower Lakes [factsheet/full report], 4) the Macquarie Marshes [factsheet/full report], 5) The Torres Strait Islands [factsheet/full report], and 6) Small inland communities in the Murray-Darling Basin [factsheet/full report]. The five key findings from this project on adaptation barriers and limits are: i) Because any single strategy may fail, achieving adaptation goals is likely to require portfolios of multiple strategies; ii) Barriers can become limits, due to the inability of institutions to adjust despite there being possibility for adaptation to be supported; iii) Big processes, such as those that operate on a global scale or over long time scales, can limit local-scale adaptation responses; iv) Adaptation entails trade-offs between values, and limits to adaptation arise through trade-offs; however, v) If these trade-offs can be made explicit and the subject of deliberation by stakeholders, then adaptation can arise through active choices rather than de facto institutional behaviours.

Resource Type: 
Case studies
Australia Wide
Biodiversity, natural resources
Finance, business
Local government

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