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WIREs Clim Change
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Are adaptation studies effective, and what can enhance their practical impact?

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In this piece we explore the interface between adaptation research and adaptation policy, planning, and investment. We ask, ‘How is research on adaptation informing the nascent domain of adaptation policy and practice?’ To inform this discussion, we extract a few of the more salient lessons from four different domains of adaptation research: risk assessment and impact response, social vulnerability and adaptive capacity, resilience, and the science of decision making and policy implementation. Through a few select case studies of adaptation planning, we explore the extent to which we see these lessons taking hold in adaptation practice. The cases reviewed suggest that there may be significant differences in the type of research that informs planning in more industrial contexts compared to the developing world. Risk assessment and cost/benefit analysis appear to dominate adaptation planning in the industrialized world, while insights concerning governance, the social and economic constraints to adaptation, and building systemic resilience are featured more in planning documents from the developing world. The focus on risk assessment and associated technological interventions in the industrialized world illustrates the difficulty of addressing underlying structural and cognitive barriers to change, as well as the policy implications of conceptualizing adaptation as an outcome rather than a dynamic process. More broadly, the challenge of adaptation now offers an opportunity for innovative and collaborative research in which networks of academics, policy makers, at‐risk populations, and other stakeholders actively participate in understanding the process of adaptation, experimenting in responses to change and learning from that process. WIREs Clim Change 2011 2 141–153 DOI: 10.1002/wcc.100

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