Stockholm university

Aiming for fair climate adaptation

On 28 February, the IPCC presented a new climate report. But what is required for adaptation measures to be perceived as legitimate and fair? That question is the focus of Lisa Dellmuth's research.

The GlocalClim project studies climate adaptation from a social science perspective to shed light on how adaptation can be perceived as fair and legitimate. Photo: Stella Salander/Mostphotoshoto.

Ongoing climate change requires adaptation measures. As ordinary people and individuals, we can notice this in the form of increased risks of extreme rainfall or drought periods and by milder winters. Governments, authorities, organizations and companies must also take climate change into account when developing strategies for managing conflicts and refugee flows or urban planning, energy and food supply.

Stockholm University has been conducting the research project Glocalizing Climate Governance (GlocalClim) since 2019, which is funded by Formas. The project is led by Lisa Dellmuth, researcher in international relations. Project participants are Maria-Therese Gustafsson, researcher in political science, as well as a handful of senior lecturers, PhD students and some students involved in data collection, data analysis and publications.


Interviews at the Glasgow Climate Summit

Lisa Dellmuth and PhD student Suanne Segovia were present at the UN climate summit COP26 in the autumn of 2021. They interviewed representatives of voluntary organizations and also conducted a digital survey in which they received close to 300 responses. These show a fragmented picture of confidence in the work on climate adaptation within UN climate conferences and working groups; about half of the respondents have great confidence and the other half small. The answers generally show a lower level of confidence among representatives of indigenous peoples.


New index for climate adaptation

Lisa Dellmuth
Lisa Dellmuth

For a long time, in the social sciences, there has been a lack of an accepted concept for climate adaptation, says Lisa Dellmuth. Within the framework of GlocalClim, the researchers have tried to define climate adaptation and also developed an index for that. This index shows how organizations deal with climate adaptation and how effective the adaptation is. In the autumn, a doctoral dissertation and scientific article on the index and climate adaptation in international organizations were published. The results show great variation. The UN Disaster Management Organization (UNISDIR) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are among the most successful and active. The World Trade Organization WTO and the security organization NATO are among those with low values in the index.

"It is required that decision-makers and a wider audience believe that global organizations are legitimate to mobilize resources and inspire dialogue. WHO is an example of an organization that has succeeded well with this and has come a long way in promoting knowledge of what climate adaptation means for health issues," says Lisa Dellmuth.

She also emphasizes that it is most important that the organizations with the greatest capacity, such as the UN, the EU and the World Bank, improve their efforts for climate adaptation.

On 28 February, the UN Climate Panel (IPCC) Working Group 2 (Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability) presented a report on impact, adaptation and vulnerability based on climate change. Lisa Dellmuth hopes the report will highlight the need for legitimacy and justice to achieve successful climate adaptation.

What do you expect from the IPCC report?
"I think it will continue to "hammer in" the message that it is humanity that is responsible for todays global warming. I also believe that it contributes with systematic knowledge of how adaptation should take place in different sectors and in different parts of the world. Perhaps it also touches on ethical issues regarding the management of climate adaptation."*

In the continued work based on the new IPPC report, Lisa Dellmuth hopes that research within GlocalClim can contribute new knowledge about how international organizations have contributed to climate adaptation. She also believes that the new index can be important - not least to contribute evidence of how and to what extent the UN and other international organizations are involved in climate adaptation, and how these adaptation measures are perceived.


Listen more to indigenous peoples

To gain legitimacy and justice, the industrialized world must, according to Lisa Dellmuth, become more involved in climate adaptation. There is also a need to look more closely at the injustices that exist in different countries, for example by listening more to indigenous peoples. According to her, redistribution of costs caused by climate change is also important. The developed world must regard this as an obvious task to take responsibility in these matters.

How then does the UN's climate system work?
"There are different perceptions among populations and voluntary organizations about how the UN works. But there are good conditions for driving the work with climate adaptation forward."

* The interview was done before the presentation of the IPCC report was presented.

Read more about GlocalClim: Glocalizing Climate Governance

Climate change adaptation blog
Read more about the article in PLOS ONE this autumn: Increased commitment to climate adaptation among 30 international organizations

Read more about Lisa Dellmuth

Watch interview with Suanne Segovia at COP26.


IPCC Working Group 2. Impact, Adaptation and Vulnerability

The UN's climate panel IPCC has three main working groups that study climate issues from different aspects. Working group 2 (Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability) assesses the vulnerability of natural and socio-economic systems based on climate change. The working group studies both the consequences and alternatives for how adaptation to climate change can take place. On 28 February, Working Group 2 presents the report Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. The report will be one of the basis for the major review report that the IPCC will present in the autumn of 2022.

Read more about working group 2 within the IPCC.