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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2015

Adaptive Ideals and Aspirational Goals: The Realist Constraints and Utopian Ideals of Climate Change Adaptation

Baard, Patrik


There is a growing need to implement anticipatory climate change adaptation measures, particularly in vulnerable sectors, such as in agriculture. However, setting goals to adapt is wrought with several challenges. This paper discusses two sets of challenges to goals of anticipatory adaptation, of (1) empirical and (2) normative character. The first set of challenges concern issues such as the extent to which the climate will change, the local impacts of such changes, and available adaptive responses. In the second set of uncertainties are issues such as the distribution of burdens to enhance adaptive capacities in vulnerable agents with a legitimate claim to such resources, and what anticipatory adaptation ideally should result in. While previous discussions have been limited to either discuss the first or second set of uncertainties, this paper suggests that both dimensions should be considered when setting goals in social planning with long time frames. A taxonomy will be suggested that combines both dimensions. Furthermore, strategies for managing situations in which there are either empirical, or normative, uncertainties will be proposed which could be used in social decision-making with long planning time-frames in which goals must be set.


Climate change adaptation; Agriculture; Utopia; Realism; Goals

Published in

Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics
2015, Volume: 28, number: 4, pages: 739-757

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