Adaptation and the poor: development, resilience and transition

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Risk minimization is no longer a sufficient survival strategy for poor people in livelihood systems increasingly exposed to frequent extreme events. This calls for comprehensive adaptation to climate change. Within the climate change regime, adaptation is as central as mitigation but needs to be much more explicitly addressed at local, national and global levels. There is also a need for policy renewal in other international regimes that are central to adaptation, such as environment, human rights, development and trade. Accordingly, this article addresses poverty-relevant adaptation through the medium of three discourses: development, resilience, and transition theory. Development, as a post-war project of theories, strategies and policies, spells out the links between rich and poor countries and offers modernization trajectories but few solutions for adaptation and sustainability transitions. Resilience, as an analytical framework emerging in ecology in the 1970s in reaction to ideas of equilibrium, depicts incremental changes and capacity to preserve systems within given frames but does not recognize that social change mainly implies transitions to renewed forms of production, consumption and distribution with new combinations of organization, institutions and technology. Transition theory focuses on profound multilevel changes in complex (sub)systems, thereby offering a powerful framework for theorizing empirical findings and promoting adaptation as a transition to sustainability.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • Economic History


  • adaptation, development, insurance, poverty, alleviation, transition theory, resilience, climate change
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-182
JournalClimate Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Publication categoryResearch