Press release 13 September 2021
In a new study in PLOS ONE, researchers from Mistra Geopolitics and Stockholm University have published the first dataset quantifying climate change adaptation by 30 international organizations (1990-2017). The study finds increasing engagement with adaptation, with striking consistency across all thirty organizations and nine issue areas examined.
Effective global governance of adaptation to climate risks for human health, development, migration and security, among others, is ever more pressing. As shown by the recent IPCC report, existing decarbonization efforts are insufficient to avoid dangerous effects of global warming. It may therefore come as no surprise that many international organizations, such as the African Union, United Nations, and World Bank, have increasingly engaged in climate adaptation.
Examination of more than 2 000 adaptation activities
The study “International organizations and climate change adaptation: A new dataset for the social scientific study of adaptation, 1990–2017” is the first to quantify and examine international organizations’ engagement with climate adaptation. Measuring adaptation is a highly debated issue in both academic and practitioner circles, as adaptation can mean different things in different issue areas and cultural contexts. Recognizing this challenge, researchers from Stockholm University, affiliated with Mistra Geopolitics, examined more than 2 000 adaptation activities by 30 international organizations between 1990 and 2017.
Lisa Dellmuth, lead author at Stockholm University and co-lead of the Mistra Geopolitics PhD research school said:
“The study’s evidence confirms earlier case studies suggesting that organizations like the International Organization for Migration and World Health Organization have increasingly integrated adaptation in their governance portfolios. Our dataset enables more large-scale and comparative analysis of global adaptation governance across time, issue areas, geographical regions and international organizations.”
Engagement prevails for the examined organizations
The study’s principal insights are twofold. First, with striking consistency, engagement with adaptation prevails for the 30 organizations examined across world regions and across nine non-climate issue areas: disaster risks, global development banking, migration, health, regional cooperation, development, food & agriculture, peace & security, trade & economy. That these very different organizations nowadays all govern adaptation is a conundrum that researchers have yet to better understand.
Second, the study observes a dramatic increase of adaptation engagement in 2007 after the 2007 IPCC report on adaptation and the Bali Action Plan. This finding suggests that world society has experienced major growth in global adaptation governance and its measurability over the past 15 years.
“Our study has important consequences for policymaking: international organizations’ engagement with adaptation, in conjunction with increasing cross-border flows and risks, has profoundly changed the global governance landscape. It has become ever more complex and interlinked with the climate crisis.”
Said co-author Ece Kural, PhD candidate in International Relations at Stockholm University, and member of Mistra Geopolitics.
To conclude, the study uncovers puzzles to be tackled by future research. “Our quantitative evidence can be used for selecting cases for in-depth studies of individual organizations. For example, why is the Asian Development Bank one of the early adapters of adaptation activities, while ASEAN, located in the same region, has lagged behind?” said co-author Maria-Therese Gustafsson, Associate Senior Lecturer in Political Science at Stockholm University, and member of Mistra Geopolitics.
The researchers also emphasize the opportunities to link dataset with other existing large-scale datasets. For instance, this study’s dataset could be linked to OECD’s DAC database on disaster aid; vulnerability indices such as Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN) database or hazard severity measures available in the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT). Linking datasets would promote a better understanding of how international cooperation could be improved to enhance climate resilience.
Lisa Dellmuth is an Associate Professor of International Relations at Stockholm University. Lisa is leading the Research School of Mistra Geopolitics. Her research focuses on legitimacy and redistribution in global governance, and global climate change solutions. She leads the 5-year research program GlocalClim (Glocalizing Climate Governance: The role of Integrated Governance for a Just and Legitimate Adaptation to Climate Risks) funded by the Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development (Formas).
Telephone:+46 8 161 076
Ece is a doctoral student in International Relations at Stockholm University. She holds a masters’ degree in Political Science from Uppsala University and bachelors’ degrees in International Relations and Psychology from Koc University, Istanbul. Ece is focusing on the Work Package 3 of the Mistra Geopolitics programme with a specific interest in the legitimacy and effectiveness of the global governance responses to climate-security risks. Ece will be working closely with her supervisors Dr Lisa Maria Dellmuth and Dr Maria-Therese Gustafsson.
Maria-Therese Gustafsson is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Political Science, Stockholm University. Prominent themes in her research are natural resource governance, political participation, and climate security. She has published a research monography Private Politics and Peasant Mobilization: Mining in Peru (Palgrave MacMillan), articles in Third World Quarterly, WIRE Climate Change, the Latin American Research Review and Canadian Journal of Development Studies, and has edited two anthologies. She is a researcher in Work Package 3 and heads the Research School in the Mistra Geopolitics programme.
Ylva Rylander is a Communications Officer at SEI. As a core member of SEI’s communications team and previous Press Officer of SEI, Ylva writes and edits press releases, develops communication plans and creates news stories. With 15 years of experience in public relations, awareness raising and external communication, she also provides strategic advice to SEI and Mistra Geopolitics researchers to help them maximize the impact of their research.
Telephone:+4673 150 33 84
Citation of the study
Kural E, Dellmuth LM, Gustafsson M-T (2021) International organizations and climate change adaptation: A new dataset for the social scientific study of adaptation, 1990–2017. PLoS ONE 16(9): e0257101. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0257101
Press release and news feature written by: Ece Kural, Lisa Dellmuth, Ylva Rylander and Per Larsson.
For interviews or further information, please contact:
Ylva Rylander, Communications Officer, Mistra Geopolitics at Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)
[email protected] +46 731 503 384
Lisa Dellmuth, Department of Economic History and International Relations, Stockholm University
[email protected] +46-722 933 380
Press Department of the Stockholm University
[email protected] +46-816 40 90
Twitter: #MistraGeopolitics #climaterisk