Differentiating capacities as a means to sustainable climate change adaptation

Hallie Eakin, M. C. Lemos, D. R. Nelson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    248 Scopus citations


    There are two forms of capacity to adapt to global change: those associated with fundamental human development goals (generic capacity), and those necessary for managing and reducing specific climatic threats (specific). We argue that these two domains of capacity must be addressed explicitly, simultaneously and iteratively if climate change adaptation and sustainable development goals are to be attained. We propose a simple heuristic to understand the four main ways these two capacities interact, leading to more or less desirable outcomes. Drawing from three case studies of agricultural adaptation to climatic risk (Phoenix, AZ; Northeast Brazil; Chiapas, Mexico) we argue that the institutional context of adaptation can implicitly or explicitly undermine one form of capacity with repercussions for the development of the other. A better and more strategic balance of generic and specific capacities is needed if the promised synergies between sustainable development and adaptation are to be achieved.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1-8
    Number of pages8
    JournalGlobal Environmental Change
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - 2014


    • Adaptation
    • Capacity
    • Climate change
    • Poverty
    • Risk
    • Sustainable development

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Global and Planetary Change
    • Geography, Planning and Development
    • Ecology
    • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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