William Walker, David Liebl, Lewis Gilbert, James LaCro, Pete Nowak, John Sullivan

This paper explores the nature of climate change adaptation. The goal of this paper is to make readers aware of three fundamental problems with climate change adaptation. Those problems limit what society will be able to achieve through adaptation, but they also suggest important ways to focus adaptation efforts.  This paper is an overview and synthesis of the adaptation literature. The goal is to identify important issues in adaptation, both to alert policy-makers to their importance and to encourage researchers to explore them.

The authors propose three concepts around which the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts could organize its future work: uncertainty, indirect benefits, and planning horizons. These three concepts have three things to recommend them:

  1. They are general enough to cover a range of climate change adaptation topics.
  2. They are definite enough to yield specific policy recommendations.
  3. In the authors' views, they are the three most important problems facing climate change adaptation.
Published On

Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI)

Global climate models indicate that climate change will have significant impacts on mid-latitude regions such as the Upper Midwest, but little is known about specific effects on Wisconsin's environment, economy, and human health, or how to address potential threats or opportunities. Effective responses will require the best available science and meaningful participation of public and private stakeholders.


State / Provincial
Sector Addressed
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Capacity Building
Infrastructure, Planning, and Development
Governance and Policy