Overcoming path dependence in climate adaptation
6 March 2014
Gold Coast campus
- Presenter - Dr Benjamin L. Preston
- Abstract - Adaptation to anticipated climatic change is now widely recognized as a key policy mechanism for managing climate risk. However, a rapidly growing literature has documented myriad challenges to adaptation, which suggests adaptation efforts may fail to realize their full potential with respect to avoiding climate damages. Many of these challenges arise from a common source – path dependence. Trajectories of economic development, demographic change, institutional behavior and the climate itself have all proven to be quite persistent, even in the face of growing awareness of climate risk and emerging societal interventions. This phenomenon is evidenced by the increasing exposure of communities to extreme weather events as well as by observed difficulties in implementing substantive adaptation policies. Hence, a pragmatic vision of adaptation may necessitate shifting from a “first-best world” view, where adaptation is implemented optimally, to a “second-best world” where missed opportunities and less than optimal adjustments are the norm. That said, adaptation researchers and practitioners may benefit from the critical examination of cases where rapid societal transitions have been observed. Such cases can provide clues as to how adaptation can avoid the pitfalls of path dependence toward more resilient futures.
- Biography - Benjamin Preston is a Visiting Fellow with the Victorian Centre for Climate Change Adaptation Research. He is currently on leave from his position as Deputy Director of the Climate Change Science Institute at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in the United States where his research focuses on the assessment of climate risk to human systems and the role of adaptation in managing that risk. Currently, he also serves on the editorial board of the journal Climate Risk Management and as a coordinating lead author of the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. His prior appointments have included work with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and the Pew Center on Global Change in Washington, DC. Dr. Preston received a BSc in biology from the College of William and Mary and a PhD in environmental biology from the Georgia Institute of Technology.