Enabling local adaptation to climate change: towards collective action in Flagler Beach, Florida, USA

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Local communities around the world are directly exposed to impacts of climate
change. It is also clear that many local governments are politically and economically constrained in their capacity to implement needed adaptations. These constraints can restrict adaptation options to incremental, or even maladaptive, practices. At the same time, necessary transformational actions may remain out of reach for local actors. Building on five years of collaborative research with the city of Flagler Beach (Florida, USA), we draw on political process theories to describe how incremental adaptation activities that are possible within current constraints can serve to build local capacity for instigating reforms at higher scales of social organization. We use the concept of a collective action strategy to conceptualize how context-specific barriers to adaptation can be overcome. From our analysis, an idealized multi-step process for designing collective action strategies is presented. The study advances scholarship on limits to adaptation beyond the diagnosis of barriers to action by taking steps towards developing context-specific strategies for overcoming these barriers.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


  • Scale, Barrier to adaptation, Incremental adaptation, transformational adaptation, social change, strategy
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)631–649
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number157
Early online date2019 Nov 30
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch