Transformative Potential of Managed Retreat as Climate Adaptation

AR Siders, Idowu Ajibade, David Casagrande
Posted on: 11/15/2022 - Updated on: 11/15/2022

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Managed retreat in response to climate change does not inherently lead to societal transformation. Assessing whether retreat has been transformative requires consideration of what or who is transformed, at what scale, and in what ways. It also requires nuanced consideration of relative spatial and temporal scale, domain of change, and implications for procedural and distributive justice while recognizing historical injustices and opportunities for restorative action. Current practices show managed retreat has not always been transformative in ways that promote justice. Nevertheless, retreat — as both a concept and practice — has potential to change societal perceptions of climate risk, challenge techno-optimistic in situ adaptations, and foreground issues of equity as a primary concern in adaptation.


  • Managed retreat or relocation is not inherently transformative
  • Transformation requires consideration of who is transformed and in what ways
  • Transformative retreat challenges structural inequities and promote justice
  • Retreat has potential to transform cultural views and narratives about adaptation


AR Siders, Idowu Ajibade, David Casagrande (2021). Transformative potential of managed retreat as climate adaptation. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 50:272–280.