Climatic Change

, Volume 156, Issue 4, pp 447–469 | Cite as

A policy mixes approach to conceptualizing and measuring climate change adaptation policy

  • Alexandra LesnikowskiEmail author
  • James D. Ford
  • Robbert Biesbroek
  • Lea Berrang-Ford


Comparative research on climate change adaptation policy struggles with robust conceptualization and measurement of adaptation policy. Using a policy mixes approach to address this challenge, we characterize adaptation policy based on a general model of how governments govern issues of societal interest. We argue that this approach allows for context-sensitive measurement of adaptation policy, while being both comparable and parsimonious. This approach is tested in a study of adaptation policies adopted by 125 local governments located in Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK. Using a systematic data collection protocol, a total of 3328 adaptation policies were identified from local council archives between the periods of January 2010 and May 2017. Results of this analysis suggest that there is structured variation emerging in how local governments govern climate change adaptation, which justifies calls for comparative adaptation research to use measurements that capture the totality of adaptation policies being adopted by governments rather than focusing on specific types of adaptation policy. We conclude with a discussion of key issues for further developing of this approach.



Many thanks to Malcolm Araos, Geneva List, Mathijs Veenkant, and Florian Dorner for their assistance with data collection, and to two anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions on previous versions of the manuscript.

Funding information

This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10584_2019_2533_MOESM1_ESM.docx (50 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 49 kb)


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Priestley International Centre for ClimateUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK
  3. 3.Public Administration and Policy GroupWageningen UniversityWageningenNetherlands

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