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SEI working paper

Transformative Learning and Engagement with Climate Change Adaptation: Experiences with Sweden’s Forestry Sector

This study looks into how science-based learning experiences can help overcome social barriers to adaptation and behaviour change, and how learning in itself may be hindered by those barriers.

Åsa Gerger Swartling, Gregor Vulturius / Published on 31 December 2013

Vulturius, G., and Å Gerger Swartling (2013). Transformative Learning and Engagement with Climate Change Adaptation: Experiences with Sweden’s Forestry Sector. SEI Working Paper 2013-12 and Mistra-Swecia Working Paper No. 7.

Climate change is expected to profoundly affect forestry and other natural resource-based economic sectors in the coming decades. Thus, it is important to raise awareness of climaterelated risks – and opportunities – among stakeholders in these sectors, and engage them proactively in adaptation. Many social barriers have been shown to hinder adaptation, however, including perceptions of climate change as irrelevant or not worth worrying about, underestimates of adaptive capacity, and lack of trust in climate science.

The study examines the role of learning in engagement with climate change adaptation through the lens of transformative learning theory, which defines learning as a change in a person’s frames of reference and behaviour that results from critical discourse and reflection. The analysis is based on follow-up interviews conducted with 24 Swedish forestry stakeholders who had participated in a series of focus group discussions about climate change risks and adaptation measures.

The authors find that many stakeholders struggled to form an opinion based on what they perceived as uncertain and contested scientific knowledge about climate change and adaptation. They conclude that learning can more effectively increase engagement with climate change adaptation if the scientific knowledge presented addresses the needs, objectives and aspirations of stakeholders and ties in with their previous experiences with climate change and extreme weather.

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.

Download the paper (PDF, 2.8MB)

About SEI Working Papers:
The SEI working paper series aims to expand and accelerate the availability of our research, stimulate discussion, and elicit feedback. SEI working papers are work in progress and typically contain preliminary research, analysis, findings, and recommendations.
Many SEI working papers are drafts that will be subsequently revised for a refereed journal or book. Other papers share timely and innovative knowledge that we consider valuable and policy-relevant, but which may not be intended for later publication.

SEI authors

Åsa Gerger Swartling
Åsa Gerger Swartling

Head of Knowledge Management, Senior Research Fellow

Global Operations

SEI Headquarters

Topics and subtopics
Climate : Adaptation / Land : Forests / Governance : Participation

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