Assessment of the climate change adaptation capacity of urban agglomerations in China

  • Chunli Zhao
  • Jianguo ChenEmail author
  • Guofeng Su
  • Hongyong Yuan
Original Article


Complex urban ecosystems are relatively fragile in the context of climate change. Given this fragility and the large numbers of urban inhabitants, it is important for researchers and government regulators to assess the adaptation capacity of urban areas with respect to climate change. Currently, there are few studies that have evaluated such adaptation capacity across different regions and periods. In this study, a framework and method are established to assess the adaptation capacity of Chinese cities and urban agglomerations (UAs) with respect to climate change by integrating an SPRR (Source, Pathway, Receptor, Response) model with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment framework. We develop an indicator system for exposure, sensitivity, and resilience and use the set pair analysis (SPA) method to evaluate the adaptation capacity of 12 typical UAs in China. Results show that (1) adaptation capacity levels show wide variation across China, with the majority of cities and UAs having either high or low levels of capacity and a minority having a moderate level of capacity; (2) inland UAs have low adaptation capacity because of low resilience and sensitivity, whereas eastern coastal UAs have high adaptation capacity, for their high resilience and sensitivity; and (3) higher climate change exposures are distributed predominantly in central China. A pronounced economic disparity exists between western inland regions and eastern regions, with the latter having higher levels of economic development and superior infrastructure. The regional economic inequalities and spatial variation in climate variability observed in China are also characteristics shared by many other countries and regions, suggesting that our results may be generalised to other countries and regions. We propose that underdeveloped regions should seek to improve infrastructure and funding directed towards improving adaptation capacity, whereas developed regions should improve their ability to monitor climate change and its impacts.


Climate change Adaptation capacity Set pair analysis (SPA) Urban agglomeration (UA) 


Funding information

This research was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (Grant No. 2018YFC0806900), the Major Program of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No.71790613), and the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (Grant No. 2019M650631).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Engineering PhysicsTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.Institute of Public Safety ResearchTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina
  3. 3.Beijing Key Laboratory of City Integrated Emergency Response ScienceBeijingChina

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