Adaptation has so far mainly been framed as a domestic, territorial concern, but for many countries, particularly the rich ones, it is likely that the greatest climate impacts will be indirect, the result of more severe impacts elsewhere. These impacts, together with global policy measures and changes in the global economy, will create changes in flows of goods, capital and people. They may also have severe conflict and security implications.

A recent comprehensive analysis by the UK government argues that consequences of climate change overseas could be as important as domestic climate change, which suggests that the dominant understanding of adaptation as a challenge primarily driven by local, place-based change may i) not adequately capture the real decision making situation on the ground, and ii) lead to sub-optimal policy responses, since not all relevant climate change impacts are accounted for. The implications of indirect impacts for decision-making and governance are poorly understood, and conceptual frameworks are lacking.

Drawing on an empirical analysis of how indirect impacts of climate change are addressed in strategic documents analyzing the future global context for Swedish forestry, this paper seeks to stimulate a discussion on the possible widening of the adaptation discourse to also explicitly include change processes outside a particular geographical location as important drivers for adaptation action within that location.

The authors acknowledge the financial support of the Swedish Foundation for Environmental Research (Mistra) through the Swedish Research Programme on Climate, Impacts and Adaptation (Mistra-SWECIA) Programme.

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