The past 10 years have seen a substantial increase in research on climate change adaptation, but a large gap remains between adaptation research and action. Adaptation researchers have either failed to demonstrate the relevance of their findings to practitioners and policymakers, or stakeholders have based their views and decisions on other kinds of information. In addition, in sectors such as agriculture, forestry, nature conservation, urban planning, water management and energy supply, adaptation has been studied separately from mitigation, which contradicts the reality of many practitioners.

This paper identifies five bottlenecks to the use of adaptation research in practice and policy, which have gone unnoticed because the traditional framing of adaptation does not adequately consider the notion of agency, often rendering stakeholder interactions ineffective. Knowledge and use of actor-oriented theory when analysing and discussing adaptation needs and options could serve to find ways to overcome the bottlenecks and narrow the gap between research and action.

The paper also presents a novel framework for actor-oriented adaptation research that is being conducted within the Nordic Centre of Excellence for Strategic Adaptation Research (NORD-STAR). It frames climate adaptation as addressing both the impacts of climate change and the consequences of climate policy. Two methodological approaches – modelling and visualization, and policy analysis – are applied to three thematic issues: land-use change, energy transitions, and insurance and finance.

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