Publication Details

Toole, S., Klocker, N. & Head, L. (2016). Re-thinking climate change adaptation and capacities at the household scale. Climatic Change: an interdisciplinary, international journal devoted to the description, causes and implications of climatic change, 135 (2), 203-209.


The reality of anthropogenic climate change has rendered adaptive responses at all scales an imperative. Households are an increasing focus of attention, but more in the developing world than the developed world, because of the presumed lesser vulnerabilities and stronger adaptive capacities of the latter. Critiques of such presumptions, and the quantitative, macro-scale focus of much adaptation research are emergent. How relatively affluent households, as complex social assemblages, may adapt to climate change impacts encountered in their day-to-day functioning remains unclear. There is, however, a sizeable body of research on household environmental sustainability in the developed world. That research has significant implications for climate change adaptation. This paper brings household environmental sustainability research into productive conversation with the climate change adaptation literature. The former shows that sustainability issues are refracted through social relations within households, and the demands of everyday life. This has three implications for how adaptation needs to be re-framed. First, climate change will not be experienced only via climatic stimuli and extreme weather events. It will be entwined in the complexity of everyday life. Second, knowledge of climate change is not a prerequisite for household adaptive capacity. Third, household-scale analyses show that assumed capacities and vulnerabilities may end up being quite different to those imagined or measured at a macro-scale. These insights invite consideration of how householders' adaptive capacities can be better supported.



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