The discourse of adaptation to climate change and the UK Climate Impacts Programme: De-scribing the problematization of adaptation

Elspeth Oppermann

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Discourse describes our reality, at once depicting and delimiting our understanding of the world and our place in it. Discourse can also be de-scribed; the script unpicked to reveal the contingency of what it includes and excludes. The discourse of adaptation to climate change is one such description. This article uses critical discourse analysis to describe and de-scribe the discourse of adaptation as (re)produced through one UK Climate Impacts Programme report. It identifies within the report a core, techno-scientific problematization of adaptation and a series of supplementary moments that are in ontological and epistemological tension with the core problematization, particularly regarding the conceptualization of knowledge and uncertainty, actors and agency, and the practices and politics that are understood to constitute adaptation. This tension is used to de-scribe the discourse; the supplementary moments highlight the limits of the core problematization, revealing points of extension or departure for the discourse. This is particularly apparent when these moments are articulated together into a supplementary, socio-systemic problematization. This demonstrates significant conceptual resonances with systems and complexity-based accounts of adaptation, including the discourse of sustainable adaptation, all of which offer further discursive resources for the extension or replacement of the discourse as produced in the report.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)71-85
    Number of pages15
    JournalClimate and Development
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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