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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 13, issue 12 | Copyright

Special issue: Building social capacities for natural hazards: an emerging...

Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 13, 3369-3384, 2013
© Author(s) 2013. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 20 Dec 2013

Research article | 20 Dec 2013

Assessing institutional capacities to adapt to climate change: integrating psychological dimensions in the Adaptive Capacity Wheel

T. Grothmann, K. Grecksch, M. Winges, and B. Siebenhüner T. Grothmann et al.
  • Ecological Economics, School of Computing Science, Business Administration, Economics and Law, University of Oldenburg, Oldenburg, Germany

Abstract. Several case studies show that social factors like institutions, perceptions and social capital strongly affect social capacities to adapt to climate change. Together with economic and technological development they are important for building social capacities.

However, there are almost no methodologies for the systematic assessment of social factors. After reviewing existing methodologies we identify the Adaptive Capacity Wheel (ACW) by Gupta et al. (2010), developed for assessing the adaptive capacity of institutions, as the most comprehensive and operationalised framework to assess social factors. The ACW differentiates 22 criteria to assess 6 dimensions: variety, learning capacity, room for autonomous change, leadership, availability of resources, fair governance.

To include important psychological factors we extended the ACW by two dimensions: "adaptation motivation" refers to actors' motivation to realise, support and/or promote adaptation to climate; "adaptation belief" refers to actors' perceptions of realisability and effectiveness of adaptation measures.

We applied the extended ACW to assess adaptive capacities of four sectors – water management, flood/coastal protection, civil protection and regional planning – in northwestern Germany. The assessments of adaptation motivation and belief provided a clear added value. The results also revealed some methodological problems in applying the ACW (e.g. overlap of dimensions), for which we propose methodological solutions.

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