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Article in “Nature Climate Change”: Overcoming the Barriers to Climate Change Adaption

Symbol for Adaptation - the Emblem of the Chameleon Research Project

Fighting climate change should be one of our priorities today. Additionally, it is utterly important to adapt to the consequences of global warming. But adaptation often fails because of barriers, which are hard to overcome. Research can contribute to understanding and overcoming barriers, but this needs different foci and approaches in barriers research. That’s what IÖW-expert Esther Hoffmann found out in the context of the Chameleon project. Based on the international Chameleon Research Workshop, held in autumn 2012 in Berlin, a team of researchers from IÖW, the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg and renowned international climate adaptation scientists conducted a review of current research on barriers to adaptation and developed recommendations on how to advance barrier research. Results are published in the article “Explaining and overcoming barriers to climate change adaption” in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The status of research related to the topic

In the article the scientists show that a lot of research on barriers has already been accomplished. Nevertheless, there are still relevant research deficits. In general, scientists describe the barriers of adaptation but they rarely explain their causes or analyze the relations and dynamics between barriers. Moreover, research on how to overcome barriers is limited.

What should scientists focus on?

The researchers suggest that the time is ripe for more explanatory research on barriers. It should focus on questions like what causes barriers, how they interact and how they change over time. In addition, research should be actor-centered for a better and easier understanding of how actors create and overcome barriers. If research improves our understanding of barriers, it will assist decision-makers in planning adaptation strategies and policies.

The Chameleon project started in October 2009, ended in September 2014 and was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research as part of the Social-Ecological Research funding priority.


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Klaus Eisenack, Susanne C. Moser, Esther Hoffmann, Richard J. T. Klein, Christoph Oberlack, Anna Pechan, Maja Rotter & Catrien J. A. M. Termeer (2014): Explaining and overcoming barriers to climate change adaption. In: Nature Climate Change 4, 867–872 (2014)