Adaptation to climate change is inevitable, but who adapts continues to be a largely unknown question. Neglecting social dimension can obscure the understanding to what extent autonomous and planned adaptation are synergistic or conflicting, resulting in maladaptive, unjust, and unequal outcomes.
Much of adaptation-related academic work has focused on planned adaptation, i.e., governed adaptation that includes the strategies, plans, and measures of national or municipal authorities with limited focus on outcomes so far. This framing ignores the fact that human and “ungoverned” societal responses to changes in the climate are ubiquitous. Autonomous adaptation, the so-called everyday adaptations, need to be understood on their own and in relation to planned adaptation. This enables the analysis of synergies and conflicts between autonomous and planned adaptation and their outcomes.
This article approaches adaptation as a commons issue and integrates existing frameworks and concepts to show how planned and autonomous adaptation can be understood together to break down the dichotomy. This integrated approach, combined with a focus on the outcome of actions through the dimensions of climate justice, can support an understanding of the actions and institutions that support equality and justice. The article draws on examples from recent studies on everyday adaptations by farmers and urban dwellers in the light of the framework.