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Bisaro A.,Adaptation and Social Learning | Swart R.,Wageningen University | Hinkel J.,Adaptation and Social Learning
Regional Environmental Change | Year: 2015

Adaptation is heterogeneous and relevant for a range of sectors and levels of decision-making. As adaptation moves up the policy agenda, solution-oriented adaptation research requires addressing questions that are salient to stakeholders and decision-makers at various scales and involves applying a wide range of different methods. Yet while solution-oriented adaptation research is being increasingly undertaken, there is to date a lack of synthesis of these experiences in the literature. In this paper, we aim to address this gap by synthesising findings in nine cases from the MEDIATION project (Methodology for Effective Decision-making on Impacts and AdaptaTION), an EC-funded solution-oriented adaptation research project. We do so by, first, describing methods applied for solution-oriented research in Europe and sequences of methods carried out in individual cases. Second, we assess strengths and weaknesses of individual methods in given empirical situations. Third, we analyse patterns observed in the sequences of methods and reflect on their implications for adaptation research. A strength of our approach is that detailed data on choices of research questions and methods were collected through in-depth and iterative interaction with the case study teams. We find that there is no standard recipe for adaptation; that even though social science methods are often indicated, they are often not applied; and that robust decision-making methods, while available, are often constrained because of their resource intensity. Reflecting on the implications of these findings, we argue that greater flexibility and transdisciplinarity are needed in adaptation research and that social science methods should be further supported. Finally, we find that stakeholder engagement is not a panacea and that engagement requires a more differentiated understanding of stakeholders and careful design in order to be effective. © 2015 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg

Tonmoy F.N.,University of Sydney | El-Zein A.,University of Sydney | Hinkel J.,Adaptation and Social Learning
Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change | Year: 2014

Climate change vulnerability assessment (CCVA) can inform adaptation policy and help in incorporating climate futures in planning. The literature on CCVA stems from a number of research paradigms (e.g., risk assessment, natural disaster management, and urban planning), therefore making it difficult to extract major directions and methodologies from this body of work. A large number of assessments are based, partly or totally, on indicators which bring up specific methodological problems and constraints. In this study, first, we discuss the most important methodological challenges facing indicator-based vulnerability assessment (IBVA) based on a set of key conceptual papers in the field. Second, we conduct a meta-analysis of a representative sample of peer-reviewed IBVA studies, to identify how current research on IBVA is engaging with these challenges. We attempt to elicit major thematic and methodological trends in this corpus with specific focus on issues related to geographical and temporal scales, aggregation, and nonlinearity. We find that health of ecosystems and biodiversity (28%), freshwater quantity and quality (12%), and public health (10%) have attracted the highest number of studies. Less than a third of the papers in our sample give some consideration to uncertainty and nonlinearity. Assessments typically use aggregation methods that are based on the Multiple Attribute Utility Theory despite the fact that IBVA rarely satisfies the theoretical requirements of this approach. A small percentage of IBVA studies critically scrutinize prevalent assessment methodologies or attempt to develop new ones, despite the raised questions in key theoretical papers about its methodological aspects. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Hinkel J.,Adaptation and Social Learning | Bisaro A.,Adaptation and Social Learning
Regional Environmental Change | Year: 2016

While methodological choices are critical for solution-oriented adaptation research, the current debate on these is underdeveloped and characterized by simple dichotomies such as bottom-up and top-down as well as vaguely defined concepts such as vulnerability. Adaptation challenges and approaches for addressing them are more diverse than these labels suggest. This paper addresses this deficit by developing a diagnostic framework that helps to identify approaches suitable for addressing a given adaptation challenge. The framework was developed out of the necessity to discuss diverse approaches from natural science, social science and practice in a set of adaptation case studies conducted within the European funded MEDIATION project. Based on these case studies complemented by the literature, we iteratively abstracted typical adaptation challenges researched, typical approaches taken, and empirical, theoretical and normative criteria applied for choosing a particular approach. Our results refine the methodological debate by distinguishing between the three general adaptation challenges of identifying adaptation needs, identifying adaptation measures and appraising adaptation options. Adaptation challenges are further classified according to private and public interest involved, individual or various types of collective action involved, data/model availability, decision-making time horizon, etc. For each type of challenge and approach, we give examples and discuss salient issues. Our results point to the opportunity to apply institutional and behavioural research to support the identification of measures and possibly avoiding barriers in practice. The diagnostic framework also serves as the basis for the forthcoming guidance for assessing vulnerability, impacts and adaptation to be published by the UNEP programme of research on climate change vulnerability, impacts and adaptation. © 2014, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

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