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Climate adaptation heuristics and the science/policy divide

Abstract

The adaptation science enterprise has expanded rapidly in recent years, presumably in response to growth in demand for knowledge that can facilitate adaptation policy and practice. However, evidence suggests such investments in adaptation science have not necessarily translated into adaptation implementation. One potential constraint on adaptation may be the underlying heuristics that are used as the foundation for both adaptation research and practice. Here, we explore the adaptation academic literature with the objective of identifying adaptation heuristics, assessing the extent to which they have become entrenched within the adaptation discourse, and discussing potential weaknesses in their framing that could undermine adaptation efforts. This investigation is supported by a multi-method analysis that includes both a quantitative content analysis of the adaptation literature that evidences the use of adaptation heuristics and a qualitative analysis of the implications of such heuristics for enhancing or hindering the implementation of adaptation. Results demonstrate that a number of heuristic devices are commonly used in both the peer-reviewed adaptation literature as well as within grey literature designed to inform adaptation practitioners. Furthermore, the apparent lack of critical reflection upon the robustness of these heuristics for diverse contexts may contribute to potential cognitive bias with respect to the framing of adaptation by both researchers and practitioners. We discuss this phenomenon by drawing upon heuristic-analytic theory, which has explanatory utility in understanding both the origins of such heuristics as well as the measures that can be pursued toward the co-generation of more robust approaches to adaptation problem-solving.

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Acknowledgements

Benjamin Preston and Megan Maloney’s contributions to this research were sponsored through Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program. ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle, LLC, for the U.S. Department of Energy under contract DE-AC05-00OR22725. Johanna Mustelin’s contributions were supported through a Griffith University Postgraduate Research Scholarship. The authors also acknowledge the constructive comments of Richard J.T. Klein on an earlier draft of this paper.

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Appendix

Appendix

Search criteria used with the Google Scholar search engine to identify documents containing putative language consistent with the use of adaptation heuristics as identified and defined in the current study. Each search term was comprised of three components: component A = “climate change”; component B = “adaptation” and component C which was variable. The tables below summarize the C components for each heuristic and the number of documents identified that were included in the current study and Fig. 1. Asterisk indicates a 'wild card' search.

Table 3 Search criteria (component C) for the Adaptation is Novel heuristic (Search Date: 6/3/2013)
Table 4 Search criteria (component C) for the Adaptation is Local heuristic (Search Date: 3/10/2013)
Table 5 Search criteria (component C) for the No Regrets heuristic (Search Date: 3/14/2013)
Table 6 Search criteria (component C) for the Adaptation is Urgent heuristic (Search Date: 3/13/2013)
Table 7 Search criteria (component C) for the Participation in Adaptation heuristic (Search Date: 3/27/2013)
Table 8 Search criteria (component C) for the Predict and Respond heuristic (Search Date:3/20/2013)
Table 9 Search criteria (component C) for the Reactive Adaptation heuristic (Search Date: 3/10/2013)
Table 10 Search criteria (component C) for the Residual Risk heuristic (Search Date: 3/10/2013)

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Preston, B.L., Mustelin, J. & Maloney, M.C. Climate adaptation heuristics and the science/policy divide. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 20, 467–497 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11027-013-9503-x

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Keywords

  • Adaptation
  • Climate change
  • Heuristics
  • Cognitive reasoning
  • Science-policy interface