J7.4 Defining adaptation: creating knowledge in a new area of climate change policy

Thursday, 27 January 2011: 9:15 AM
4C-4 (Washington State Convention Center)
Frances C. Moore, Stanford University, Stanford, CA

Adaptation to climate change impacts is a new area of policy intervention that is rising rapidly up the policy agenda. As such it offers an opportunity to study how new areas of policy become defined and the sources of knowledge and expertise that are influential in creating this definition. Drawing on participant-observation in the international climate change negotiations and semi-structured interviews with adaptation professionals, as well as a thorough review of adaptation policy documents, this paper discusses the role that scientific, political and development institutions have played and are continuing to play in the definition of adaptation policy. The history of the development of adaptation policy gives evidence of co-production in which some of the most central aspects of international adaptation policy developed in a symbiotic process between political and scientific institutions. Today, development institutions are shown to be particularly powerful in shaping the representation and definition of good adaptation policy because of their dual roles as producers of academic expertise on developing country issues and as implementers of adaptation projects. Through detailed examination of mechanisms of adaptation knowledge-production and emerging areas of adaptation knowledge, it is shown that the definition of adaptation is evolving through overlapping and at times circular processes in scientific, political and development institutions. Understanding these processes is important in that knowledge of how and why adaptation is defined as it is can also highlight which voices become politically marginalized in the process of adaptation knowledge production.
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