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The Human Dimension of Climate Adaptation: the importance of local and institutional issues

This paper presents a conceptual framework that turns the mainstream adaptation discourse upside down, with understanding and respect for autonomous adaptation as the starting point for a new agenda to manage the human dimensions of climate change. It suggests that adaptation should be built on efforts to more effectively support individuals,households, and businesses as they struggle to adapt to climate change and that this should be done with a deeper awareness of the social, economic, cultural, and political factors that frame their actions, incentives, opportunities, and limitations for action.
The paper examines the climate-related adaptive capacity of people, businesses, and ecosystems and discusses their interactions, complementarities, and competition. It also looks at adaptive capacity across scales –local,national,international – and how interfaces among these scales facilitate or stand in the way of adaptation. It describes how efforts must start with recognizing the importance of adaptive capacity, and it then explores what decades of development experience have revealed about ways to effectively invest in the capacities of individuals and the organizations that poor people rely on.
The paper concludes by offering a set of principles to ensure a focus on the human dimension of climate change. It offers recommendations for and beyond the 2009 Copenhagen climate meeting.

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