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Adaptation Without Borders – understanding the indirect impacts of climate change RCR03 TG10

This project aims to improve our understanding of indirect climate change effects, highlight adaptation interdependencies between countries, and begin to explore the implications for adaptation governance and decision-making.

Inactive project


Project Team

Profile picture of Magnus Benzie
Magnus Benzie

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Oxford

Henrik Carlsen
Henrik Carlsen

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Headquarters

Chris West

Deputy Centre Director (Research)

SEI York

Political leaders are increasingly aware of the expected impacts of climate change on their own countries – the places, populations and sectors that are most vulnerable, the priorities for adaptation. However, as disruptions from recent natural disasters, extreme weather events and crop failures have made clear, in a global economy, climate change impacts are likely to have repercussions well beyond the locations where they occur.

Recent analyses have begun to warn of the need to understand ‘adaptation interdependencies’ and ‘indirect impacts’ of climate change. This project builds on their insights, focusing on the interplay between developed and developing countries.

In the absence of a more deliberate policy approach to indirect impacts, there is a risk that autonomous adaptation could exacerbate the vulnerability of already-vulnerable countries – e.g., replacing trading partners with more resilient export countries (where viable), or securitizing resources needed to ensure exports at the expense of local livelihoods.

There is also a danger that global adaptation funding could be used ineffectively if it fails to account for indirect impacts. Conversely , an increasing awareness of indirect impacts could tempt powerful countries to allocate finance (including bilateral aid) in ways that protect their own interests (e.g. to protect supply routes or prevent migration), rather than in accordance with poor countries’ most urgent needs.

A recognition of ‘adaptation interdependencies’, meanwhile, could provide opportunities to adapt in ways that are mutually beneficial: e.g., improve local health care and early warning systems to lower the risk of pandemics, improve disaster risk reduction capacity worldwide, increase the resilience of agricultural production to reduce supply chain risk and improve local livelihoods.

This project will focus on the following key questions:

  • What are ‘indirect impacts’, and how can they be defined?
  • How significant are indirect impacts likely to be?
  • What are ‘adaptation interdependencies’, and how might indirect impacts create them?
  • Are indirect impacts currently being considered in adaptation strategies (at different scales)? If so, how? If not, why not?
  • What issues do indirect impacts raise for adaptation governance? Are governance mechanisms emerging to address these issues, and if so, what is their scale and nature? How can cross-boundary complexity be addressed?

Explore published material from the Adaptation without Borders project on the new theme space on weADAPT, including discussion and policy briefs, the AwB Index of Exposure, a Prezi introducing this Index and much more.

SEI-YouTube-95x40Watch videos about the importance of rice in Senegal as a staple food and the challenge of keeping prices stable under a changing climate.

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