Assessing global progress on human adaptation to climate change is an urgent priority. While the literature on adaptation to climate change is rapidly expanding, little is known about the actual extent of implementation.

The authors systematically screened more than 48 000 articles using machine learning methods and a global network of 126 researchers. The synthesis of the resulting 1682 articles presents a systematic and comprehensive global stocktake of implemented human adaptation to climate change.

The results show that documented adaptations were largely fragmented, local, and incremental, with limited evidence of transformational adaptation and negligible evidence of outcomes that reduced risk.

The authors identify a need to improve research on global adaptation, and eight priorities for doing so. These are to:

  • assess the effectiveness of adaptation responses
  • enhance understanding of limits to adaptation
  • enable individuals and civil society to adapt
  • include missing places, scholars, and scholarship
  • understand private sector responses
  • improve methods for synthesizing different forms of evidence
  • assess adaptation at different temperature thresholds
  • improve inclusion of timescale and dynamics of responses.