Traditional impact models combine exposure in the form of scenarios and sensitivity in the form of parameters, providing potential impacts of global change as model outputs. However, adaptive capacity is rarely addressed in these models.

This paper presents the first spatially explicit scenario-driven model of adaptive capacity, which can be combined with impact models to support quantitative vulnerability assessment. The adaptive capacity model is based on 12 socio-economic indicators, each of which is projected into the future using four global environmental change scenarios, and then aggregated into an adaptive capacity index in a stepwise approach using fuzzy set theory.

The adaptive capacity model provides insight into broad patterns of adaptive capacity across Europe, the relative importance of the various determinants of adaptive capacity, and how adaptive capacity changes over time under different social and economic assumptions. As such it provides a context for the implementation of specific adaptation measures. This could improve integrated assessment models and could be extended to other regions.

However, there is a clear need for a better theoretical understanding of the adaptive capacity concept, and its relationship to the actual implementation of adaptation measures. This requires more empirical research and coordinated meta-analyses across regions and economic sectors, and the development of bottom-up modelling techniques that can incorporate human decision-making.

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