Drone shot of terraced buildings and garden area in the

Terraced buildings and a garden area from the “Klimakvarteret”, the Climate Resilient Neighbourhood in Østerbro, Denmark. Photo: Jonathan Filskov / iStock/Getty Images Plus

Climate change adaptation research has looked at aspects of culture but extensive, closer examinations of the relationships between legal culture, communities and climate risk responses have not yet been produced. In this paper, the authors used a scoping methodology to review the available research in order to analyze how climate change adaptation and legal culture intersect in existing research.

The paper noted that this new body of work is scattered through the social sciences; drawing this research together is hindered by resilient disciplinary silos. The authors identified a need for the climate change adaptation research community to develop a shared language and proposed a set of research questions in the paper in order to delineate the field more clearly:

On legal practices

  • In what ways and to what extent does the “law in action” in adaptation processes, such as in urban planning, zoning, and enforcement, represent a distortion of the “law in books”?
  • Do legal practices discriminate against some adaptation actors (e.g., women, caste groups)?
  • Are legal practices contested (internally or externally): for example, by adaptation actors or those resisting adaptation interventions or regulation and enforcement?

On legal mobilization

  • How is law mobilized in the context of legal pluralism?
  • How far can nonstate legality can be harnessed for securing adaptation related outcomes?
  • In what ways is nonstate law being mobilized, symbolically or in practice, to resist change or in ways that undermine adaptation opportunities for others?
  • In what ways are ideas from one legal order invoked in another for the purposes of climate change adaptation?

On legal attitudes

  • What are the prevailing attitudes within a given society toward particular legal orders?
  • To what extent do prevailing legal attitudes represent a barrier to the potential effectiveness of adaptation strategies that rely on the use of law?
  • How might adaptation strategies that rely on the use of law be more sensitive to legal attitudes?

On legal consciousness

  • How do individuals and groups appraise the institutions, actors, rules, and processes that govern adaptation responses and interventions (external or internal to communities)?
  • How far does legal consciousness explain behavior, such as cooperation and resistance to adaptation?
  • How can understandings of legal consciousness in particular settings assist with the design and delivery of adaptation interventions?

The authors argued that, by answering these questions, researchers could develop a cultural focus on legality and enhance work on how culture shapes adaptation processes and outcomes.

Funded as part of the TRANSIST interdisciplinary research project