The nature and utility of adaptive capacity research
Authors: Timothy F. Smith, R.W. Carter, Phillip Daffara and Noni Keys
Adaptive capacity research has enhanced the knowledge base of decison makers for effectively devising policy, planning and implementing adaptation strategies according to the results of this study. An online survey of adaptation e-network members, key informant interviews of climate change researchers and decision makers, and a literature review were combined to assess the current approach and utility of adaptive capacity concepts and research. According to the online survey, there is little difference in the conceptualisation of adaptive capacity among researchers from a range of disciplines; all disciplinary fields shared the dominant belief that power/agency to create the future lies both internally (within individuals) and externally (within society). Anthropocentric conceptions of adaptive capacity (eg: focused on social vulnerability) were dominant within most disciplines. A systems view of adaptive capacity (eg: focussed on various social and environmental dimensions of vulnerability) was also evident, but tended to dominate in the biological science disciplines. Survey results also indicated that adaptive capacity research currently occurs largely at the state/provincial level when considering socio-ecological systems. As such, more environmental information is needed at the local scale for local governments to be effective adaptors and policy makers. This, and other knowledge gaps in adaptive capacity research are identified within the report.