Climate change and adaptation

This module looks at how to mitigate the impacts of climate change at a time when greenhouse gas emissions are still rising. Adaptation is vital to the prospects of development, given the potential for climate impacts to reduce or reverse poverty reduction gains across the global South.

Part one explores what adaptation means for development. What it means conceptually and what it is starting to look like in practice, in terms of the differing trajectories of low, middle and high income countries.

Part two explores the governance and architecture of adaptation. How we might foster the kinds of collective action necessary for global adaptation and the current institutions and mechanisms that have emerged to pursue this goal.

Part three looks at adaptation and development futures. Do we need to 'mainstream' adaptation thinking into development, or does robust adaptation require a more fundamental transformation of how we think of and do development? You will examine the underlying global political and economic forces which produce both climate change itself and the inequalities which ensure that some people are much more adversely affected by climate impacts than others.

Topics covered

  • Part 1 Linking climate change adaptation and development:
  • Development as both causing and impacted by climate change
  • The need for adaptation
  • Conceptualising adaptation, vulnerability and resilience
  • Development pathways, trajectories and climate change adaptation
  • Conceptualising and operationalising climate resilient development
  • The economics of climate change
  • Economics and climate justice
  • Part 2 Governing and Implementing adaptation and development:
  • Adaptation governance, from the local to the global
  • Climate change adaptation and social policy
  • Technologies for adaptation
  • Knowledge systems and adaptation
  • Agrarian change and adaptation
  • Part 3 Future of adaptation and development:
  • Prospects for adaptation above 2° C.

Learning outcomes

By completing this module you will be able to:

  • Understand the implications of climate change adaptation thinking for development prospects in practice.
  • Understand and evaluate critically the contribution of adaptation, vulnerability and resilience theory to understandings of development in the face of climate change.
  • Critically evaluate debates around the role of the prevailing global political economy in the production of climate impacts and poverty.
  • Explain and assess current strategies for adaptation and development, and critically evaluate the extent to which these are likely to resolve or exacerbate the problems climate change poses for development.
  • Understand and engage critically with debates around development, adaptation and transformation.


  • A two hour written examination worth 40%
  • Written 3000 word assignment worth 40%
  • Series of online seminars worth 20%.

Essential reading

  • Hakon Inderberg et al eds (2014), climate change adaptation and development: transforming paradigms and practices. Oxford: Routledge.
  • Schipper and Burton eds (2009), The Earthscan Reader on Adaptation to Climate Change. Oxford: earthscan.
  • Pelling (2011), Adaptation to Climate Change: from Resilience to Transformation. Oxford: Routledge.
  • IPCC fifth assessment report: Technical Summaries for Working Group I-III (freely available online