Berrang-Ford, L., Ford, J., and Patterson, J. In press at Global Env Change. View a video with the authors and more information on Dr. Ford's website.
Human systems will have to adapt to climate change. Understanding of the magnitude of the adaptation challenge at a global scale, however, is incomplete, constrained by a limited understanding of if and how adaptation is taking place. Here we develop and apply a methodology to track and characterize adaptation action. Our results challenge a number of common assumptions about adaptation while supporting others: 1) Considerable research on adaptation has been conducted yet the majority of studies report on vulnerability assessments and natural systems (or intentions to act), not adaptation actions; 2) Climate change is rarely the sole or primary motivator for adaptation action; 3) Extreme events are important adaptation stimuli across regions; 4) Proactive adaptation is the most commonly reported adaptive response, particularly in developed nations; 5) Adaptation action is more frequently reported in developed nations, with middle income countries underrepresented and low-income regions dominated by reports from a small number of countries; 6). There is limited reporting on adaptations being developed to take advantage of climate change or focusing on women, elderly, or children.