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The role of individual adaptive practices for sustainable adaptation

Christine Wamsler (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS), Lund University, Lund, Sweden)
Ebba Brink (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS), Lund University, Lund, Sweden)

International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment

ISSN: 1759-5908

Article publication date: 9 February 2015




This paper aims to investigate the strategies used by Swedish citizens to adapt to changing climate variability and extremes. There is an increasing consensus that individual adaptive capacities are critical to successfully adapt to climate change and achieve sustainable development. However, little is known about individual adaptive practices, particularly in developed countries.


The study covered a variety of geographical areas and included single-case studies of specific locations, cross-case studies and country-wide studies. Data were collected through literature review, interviews with at-risk people, observation and group discussions with municipal staff.


The paper provides an overview of Swedish citizens’ adaptive practices and highlights how institutional development efforts affect individuals and their activities, including the equitable distribution of adaptation needs and resources. The paper concludes that individual adaptive capacities do not necessarily translate into adaptation.

Practical implications

The results show that planned interventions are required. They emphasise the importance of more people-oriented adaptation planning that fosters the sustainable transformation of cities, together with the role that South-North knowledge transfer can play in this context.


The paper offers critical insights into the positive and negative effects of citizens’ adaptation strategies (based on criteria such as effectiveness, sustainability and equity), and it discusses their relevance in the formulation of development policies and programmes.



The authors wish to thank the participants of the research circle on “planning under uncertainty”, organized by Scania’s Association of Local Authorities (Kommunförbundet Skåne), and the students at the Master Programme of Applied Climate Strategy at Lund University, for their valuable input. This research was supported by the Swedish Research Council Formas. The authors declare that they have no financial or personal relationship(s) that may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this paper.


Wamsler, C. and Brink, E. (2015), "The role of individual adaptive practices for sustainable adaptation", International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 6-29.



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