In climate policy, large-scale mitigation typically requires active policy design and intervention. However, if we define adaptation as “change in response to changing conditions” then adaptation “simply happens”, because people always adapt to their circumstances, and it is not obvious what role for policy exists. The argument explored here is that the question of how to think about adaptation as an analytical issue as well as a policy issue is non-trivial, because change potentially affects everyone, from the level of national governments down to individual businesses and households. While it is tempting to exaggerate the scope for activist policy around adaptation, there are serious potential policy challenges to promote adaptation and avoid mal-adaptation.
About the speaker
Dr Michael Harris is the Chief Economist at the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES). Prior to this he was Associate Professor of Resource Economics at the University of Sydney. He has a Bachelor’s degree from the ANU and a PhD from the University of Melbourne. He has worked on natural resource (“green”) accounting and sustainability measurement, including the incorporation of the concept of ecological resilience into economic measures. He has also done work on water economics, soil carbon sequestration and the use of experimental economics more generally in natural resource management issues. He is an Associate Editor of the Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, and serves on two other editorial boards.