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WIREs Clim Change
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The framing of power in climate change adaptation research

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Abstract Power mechanisms and structures shape climate change adaptation outcomes, the measures adopted, and who is identified as requiring adaptation support. But to what extent does research recognize such power‐adaptation linkages? Based on a systematic literature review, we enquire if and how the framing of power matters for adaptation research and what the implications may be for practice. Our enquiry is predicated on the relationship between the researcher and the research focus being itself a relationship of power. Since power is complex and a single definition is not desirable, different actor‐orientated frames of power were used for the data analysis. The results show that authors are more likely to work with issues of power to (i.e., agency), power over, and empowerment, rather than resistance or disempowerment. Demonstrating the effect of such frames, these proportions change according to whether the research focuses on equity, effectiveness, or participation. For instance, power to is strongly associated with effectiveness, while disempowerment is associated more with equity. Together with other identified patterns, our review shows that researchers frame power in adaptation in ways that constitute biases and blind spots. Attention to particular frames of power can limit attention to important dynamics within adaptation processes. Both the content and context to which the identified frames are applied suggest structural trends in adaptation research that require increased attention. Since researchers' frames of power influence both research outcomes and broader adaptation‐power relations, the results indicate that reflexivity is needed to improve both adaptation research and practice. This article is categorized under: Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change > Institutions for Adaptation
Structuring power in adaptation processes. The figure shows how we structure the conceptual framework according to a number of overarching assumptions about the roles of power within adaptation contexts
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Systematic review process decision tree
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Redrawing the power relations of adaptation to incorporate the power of researchers, showing how researchers' frames matter for adaptation agendas and decision‐making
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Number of cases dealing with the concepts of equity (N = 55), effectiveness (N = 66), and participation (N = 79), in comparison to the total number of cases (N = 153). The categories are not mutually exclusive; a paper might involve more than one of the three concepts. The numbers above each bar indicate the total number of cases for each frame
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The proportions of the total number of case studies dealing with each of the five frames of power. The categories are not mutually exclusive, and the numbers above each bar indicate the total number of cases for each frame
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A pollination diagram representing the relationships identified between the actor group driving adaptation actions (top) and the actor group that is the subject of the adaptation action (bottom)
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Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change > Institutions for Adaptation

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