One of the critical questions of our time is how we adapt to climate change.

This theme, headed up by Cities RI Dr Johanna Nalau, the successful recipient of an ARC Discovery Early Career Research Fellow 2019-2022, explores the ins and outs of climate adaptation, with a strong focus on sustainable and robust decision-making processes in managing local and global change. Johanna is also celebrating her amazing 2020 Queensland Young Tall Poppy of Year Award.


We are constantly breaking new records (not in a good way) of reaching higher temperatures, and facing unprecedented events such as bushfires, floods, and cyclones. At the same time, slow onset changes such as droughts are testing our ability to produce food, to farm, and to live well.

Global climate change requires us not only to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also focus on the question of how can we adapt to current and future climate risks, especially in our growing cities.

The Research Theme of Adaptation Science seeks to answer this question, and many others that are surfacing as businesses, organisations, governments, communities and individuals are grappling with rapid local and global change.


Adaptation science is the pursuit of knowledge how to adapt with contributions from physical, natural, social and policy sciences. It aims to examine both the process of adaptation and the knowledge generated about adaptation.

We pay specific attention to decision-contexts (how, why and where are decisions made on adaptation), what kind of knowledge seems useful (how adaptation science can assist decision-makers) and what successful adaptation looks like (what metrics can or should we use).

The researchers in this theme come from many disciplines but all contribute different aspects to adaptation science, and also push forward an innovative research and policy relevant agenda that seeks to also engage with the theoretical foundations of climate adaptation in a critical manner.

We want to learn from practice of how adaptation is implemented, ask questions around “usefulness of science” but also be helpful and of service to those decision-makers and policy communities who see the value in developing more robust evidence-based adaptation science that can support decision-making processes.


This project will investigate an urgent science and policy problem: how to increase Australia's resilience to adverse weather and climate events. The underlying principles in this process are currently inadequate and are leading to poor policy decisions and significant waste of resources. The project critically investigates how these principles have evolved and are used by climate adaptation professionals globally and nationally. Two innovative qualitative methods, conceptual modelling and premortem method, will be used to construct a novel policy relevant framework applicable to the Australian context. Expected outcomes provide a set of widely applicable adaptation principles to support decision-making towards a resilient Australia.

In the Media

Johanna Nalau talks to 2SER about the possibility of having to relocate homes due to climate change and rising seas. August 2019 -  Listen here

Johanna Nalau podcast on Go Simone - Moving the Climate Adaptation Agenda From Planning to Action through Brave Leadership. November 2019 - Listen here

Multi-hazards: The State of Adaptation Science in Australia & Beyond - Conversation with Dr. Johanna Nalau. October 2020 - Listen here

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