Understanding Adaptive Capacity as a Dynamic Institutional Process: A Case Study of an Arctic Gateway City
Sociology The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada
This paper analyzes the conceptual basis for studying the adaptive capacity of communities as they respond to the vulnerability produced by climate change. It argues that many of the concepts in use in the social science literature on climate change are derived from ecology and, when applied to social analysis, have a rather teleological or systems orientation that limits their usefulness. It contends that, in contrast, the concepts related to institutions are derived primarily from social science and have the potential for understanding both the cultural framework influencing community responses to climate change, as well as the dynamic social behavioral processes within and between institutions that can determine whether responses are effective. In particular, it advocates an approach based in 'New Institutional Analysis'. It concludes with a very brief overview of how this approach is being used in a case study of the sub-Arctic Canadian city of Whitehorse being carried out as part of the international CAVIAR (Climate Adaptation and Vulnerability in Arctic Regions) initiative studying the social dynamics of climate change in nine Arctic rim nations.
has and assume essentially a systems perspective that fails to fully capture the dynamic processes involved in responding to environmental challenges.