DOI: 10.1002/wcc.883 ISSN: 1757-7780

Adaptation pathways for effective responses to climate change risks

Veruska Muccione, Marjolijn Haasnoot, Peter Alexander, Birgit Bednar‐Friedl, Robbert Biesbroek, Elena Georgopoulou, Gonéri Le Cozannet, Daniela N. Schmidt
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Global and Planetary Change


Climate related changes are already affecting every area of our world and will increasingly do so as global warming increases, resulting in compounding and cascading risks across multiple locations and sectors. Deliberative processes and anticipatory actions are required to adapt to the associated complex and uncertain systemic risks, with dynamic and long‐term planning needed even where there is limited knowledge of the effectiveness of adaptation. In this focus article, we examine the adaptation pathways developed for the Europe Chapter of the IPCC AR6. We argue that illustrative pathways built on quantitative and qualitative assessment of adaptation effectiveness can inform adaptation planning to manage the increasing severity of risks. We find that as the global warming level increases adaptation pathways can diverge, leading to radically different futures, for example, adaptation responses to sea level rise. We illustrate how adaptation measures for different risks interact resulting in trade‐offs, for example, increasing water scarcity. Although pathways offer a useful framework to address multiple adaptation challenges, other supporting conditions are needed for the successful implementation of adaptation, such as establishing legitimacy and buy‐in through collaboration of various actors and effective governance. Ultimately, adaptation will be increasingly more complex and constrained in a warmer world, increasing risks of losses and damages to people and nature.

This article is categorized under:

Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change > Institutions for Adaptation

The Social Status of Climate Change Knowledge > Climate Science and Decision Making

Assessing Impacts of Climate Change > Evaluating Future Impacts of Climate Change

Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change > Learning from Cases and Analogies

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