Policymakers and scientists are being urged to think much bigger when it comes to adapting to climate change.
Studying current research on ‘behavioural adaptation to climate change’, researchers at Ohio State University (OSU) discovered too much focus being placed on individual responses to isolated incidents. What they want to see is a systems-level approach to adaptation, accompanied with new research on the factors that push people to embrace the types of transformational change needed to replace entire systems.
We’re living in a different world and we need to think differently
“If we want to really adapt to climate change, we’re talking about transformational change that will truly allow society to be resilient in the face of these increasing hazards,” said Robyn Wilson, lead author of the paper and a professor of risk analysis and decision science in Ohio State’s School of Environment and Natural Resources.
Take the example of a seaside community. The OSU researchers say instead of asking what small steps should be taken to preserve it, there should be questions on whether the community even continues to exist.
“Thinking holistically is part of what transformation research is all about – saying we have to work together to really think differently,” added Robyn. “We can’t all be individually running around doing our own thing. We need to think beyond the selfish individual who says, ‘What do I need to do to be better off?'”
If we don’t adapt, as well as mitigate, Robyn says it will be difficult to ‘avoid the really catastrophic outcomes that will come down the road for children today’; and that without ‘thinking from a more more transformative standpoint of how society should be structured and where we should live and how we should live’, there will be lots of suffering in the decades and centuries ahead, and it will fall most heavily on people with the least resources and those living in developing countries.
The clock is ticking and it is time to embrace calls for real transformational change, and big policy ideas based on ‘systems-level thinking’, to create more workable societal structures.