Navigating the Continuum between Adaptation and Maladaptation

Diana Reckien, Alexandre K. Magnan, Chandni Singh, Megan Lukas-Sithole, Ben Orlove, E. Lisa F. Schipper, Erin Coughlan de Perez | 2023


Adaptation is increasing across all sectors globally. Yet, the effectiveness of adaptation is inadequate, and examples of maladaptation are increasing. To reduce the risk of maladaptation, we propose the framework, Navigating the Adaptation–Maladaptation continuum (NAM). This framework is composed of six criteria relating to outcomes of adaptation for ecosystems, the climate (greenhouse gases emissions) and social systems (transformational potential) as well as equity-related outcomes for low-income populations, women/girls and marginalized ethnic groups. We apply the NAM framework to a set of representative adaptation options showing that considerable variation exists in the potential for adaptation or the risk of maladaptation. We suggest that decision-makers assess adaptation interventions against the NAM framework criteria and prioritize responses that reduce the risk of maladaptation.