Adaptation and the limits of capacity: an examination of household adaptation to bushfire risk in Mount Dandenong (16695)
Despite growing evidence of the need for climate change adaptation, adaptation is not well understood. Adaptation is a complex social phenomenon in which climate risk is negotiated and acted upon in ways shaped by social and environmental contexts. This complexity makes adaptation difficult to research; indeed there are few empirical studies to understand adaptation in practice. Instead we have seen a growing reliance on assessments of adaptive capacity to anticipate future adaptation, despite little evidence to suggest that these assessments effectively explain adaptation.
Using bushfire preparation as an analogue for climate change adaptation, this paper presents empirical research to examine the extent to which households in Mt. Dandenong, a high capacity community, are adapting to bushfire risk. In particular, it investigates whether adaptive capacity is an effective approach to explain the adaptation occurring. The findings illustrate a tenuous relationship between adaptive capacity and adaptation, in which adaptive capacity does not neatly explain adaptation. Put simply, there is a disparity between what people can do and what they actuallydo. The research then attempts to explain this disparity by examining alternative factors that drive and constrain household adaptation.