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Navigating the continuum between adaptation and maladaptation

Abstract

Adaptation is increasing across all sectors globally. Yet, the effectiveness of adaptation is inadequate, and examples of maladaptation are increasing. To reduce the risk of maladaptation, we propose the framework, Navigating the Adaptation–Maladaptation continuum (NAM). This framework is composed of six criteria relating to outcomes of adaptation for ecosystems, the climate (greenhouse gases emissions) and social systems (transformational potential) as well as equity-related outcomes for low-income populations, women/girls and marginalized ethnic groups. We apply the NAM framework to a set of representative adaptation options showing that considerable variation exists in the potential for adaptation or the risk of maladaptation. We suggest that decision-makers assess adaptation interventions against the NAM framework criteria and prioritize responses that reduce the risk of maladaptation.

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Fig. 1: The conceptualization of the NAM framework.
Fig. 2: Location of adaptation options along the adaptation–maladaptation continuum, contributing to potentially successful adaptation or the risk of maladaptation.

Data availability

Some data generated or analysed during this study are included in this published article (and its Supplementary Information files). All datasets generated and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

We thank all our colleagues from Chapter 17, AR6, IPCC WGII. In particular, we thank and acknowledge the help of M. Cattino, R. Chakraborty, S. Huo, I. Cojocaru-Durand, L. Pei, A. R. Rinaldi, Z. A. Klobus, Q. Krasniqi and I. M. Boussebaa. D.R. received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme under grant agreement no. 101036458 (LOCALISED project), no. 101019707 (RiskPACC project) and no. 869395 (HABITABLE project), and the JPI Urban Europe programme funded by NWO under grant agreement no. 438.21.445 (project COOLSCHOOLS). A.K.M. received funding from the ‘Investissements d’avenir’ programme supported by the French National Research Agency (ANR; grant ANR-10-LABX-14-01) and also acknowledges the World Adaptation Science programme for support.

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D.R., A.K.M. and C.S. conceptualized the study. D.R., A.K.M., C.S., M.L.-S., B.O., E.L.F.S. and E.C.d.P. contributed to writing and editing. D.R. and A.K.M. synthesized the analysis. E.C.d.P. and B.O. oversaw data collection and synthesized the case study data. A.K.M. developed Fig. 2. C.S., D.R. and A.K.M. developed Fig. 1. M.L.-S. and D.R. developed Table 1.

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Correspondence to Diana Reckien.

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Reckien, D., Magnan, A.K., Singh, C. et al. Navigating the continuum between adaptation and maladaptation. Nat. Clim. Chang. 13, 907–918 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-023-01774-6

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