Does “adaptation to climate change” mean resignation or opportunity?

Abstract

It has been widely acknowledged that people’s beliefs and perceptions influence implementation of climate change adaptation. Regarding perception barriers, some authors keep highlighting the confused definition of adaptation and its various interpretations. Our research contributes to this area by exploring how adaptation to climate change is perceived through 83 semi-structured interviews with stakeholders (public and municipal organizations, ENGO, private sector) from Montreal and Paris. Our results demonstrate a mirror opposition in the perception of adaptation to climate change. Indeed, while several respondents interpreted adaptation as a resignation, many interviewees perceived adaptation as an opportunity. The analysis showed that adaptation referring to resignation includes the ideas of a non-action and detrimental to mitigation; an excuse for not changing; anxiety about climate change; fatalism; and human failure. Adaptation perceived as an opportunity is divided into a source of creativity; toward sustainable development; led by the emergency; and awareness and making society of its responsibilities. Our findings confirm that terminological ambiguity of the term “adaptation” has to be considered in the decision-making process, which can be influenced by the perception of stakeholders.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Claire Eschalier, Michael E. Cote and Professor Anthony Patt for their corrections and proofreading and the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and supports.

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Correspondence to Guillaume Simonet.

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Editor: James D. Ford.

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Simonet, G., Fatorić, S. Does “adaptation to climate change” mean resignation or opportunity?. Reg Environ Change 16, 789–799 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-015-0792-3

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Keywords

  • Adaptation
  • Climate change
  • Social perception
  • Urban area
  • Montreal
  • Paris