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The role of individual adaptive practice for sustainable adaptation

  • Christine Wamsler
  • Ebba Brink
Publishing year: 2015
Language: English
Pages: 6-29
Publication/Series: International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment
Volume: 6
Issue: 1
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Abstract english

Purpose – This paper aims to investigate the strategies used by Swedish citizens to adapt to changing climate variability and extremes. There is an increasing consensus that individual adaptive capacities are critical to successfully adapt to climate change and achieve sustainable development. However, little is known about individual adaptive practices, particularly in developed countries.

Design/methodology/approach – The study covered a variety of geographical areas and included single-case studies of specific locations, cross-case studies and country-wide studies. Data were collected through literature review, interviews with at-risk people, observation and group discussions with municipal staff.

Findings – The paper provides an overview of Swedish citizens’ adaptive practices and highlights how institutional development efforts affect individuals and their activities, including the equitable distribution of adaptation needs and resources. The paper concludes that individual adaptive capacities do not necessarily translate into adaptation.

Practical implications – The results show that planned interventions are required. They emphasise the importance of more people-oriented adaptation planning that fosters the sustainable transformation of cities, together with the role that South-North knowledge transfer can play in this context.

Originality/value – The paper offers critical insights into the positive and negative effects of citizens’adaptation strategies (based on criteria such as effectiveness, sustainability and equity), and it discusses their relevance in the formulation of development policies and programmes.


  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • Climate justice
  • Risk reduction
  • Risk governance
  • Sweden
  • Coping strategies
  • Climate change adaptation


  • ISSN: 1759-5908
Christine Wamsler
E-mail: christine [dot] wamsler [at] lucsus [dot] lu [dot] se

P.O. Box 170, SE-222 70 Lund, Sweden
Phone: +46(0)46- 222 80 81
info [at] lucsus [dot] lu [dot] se