One of the distinguishing features of successful societies is the ability to adapt to change, both
social but also natural changes like climate change. Climate change is a complex, dynamic,
non-linear process with a great deal of uncertainty concerning the time perspective, risks and
consequences. A combination of factors like climate change, geographical vulnerability, a
densely populated and highly built up coast line along with factors like deficient handling of
surface runoff and a large usage of ground water leads to an increasingly vulnerable society. It
also puts a greater pressure on the society to have preventive measures in place.
The number of actors working with preparing society to the expected impacts of climate
change and variability is increasing. However more than half of Sweden’s municipalities do
not consider changing climatic conditions when planning, and many times even allow the
construction of new living areas in known climatically vulnerable areas. Certain geographical
areas in Sweden are characterized by environmental problems which enhance the predicted
effects of climate change. The coast of Scania (Skåne) is one such area, where people for a
long time have had to adjust to conditions like coastal erosion, recurring high tides, low lying
areas and sinking land.
The following study elaborates the politics of adaptive capacity. It is based on a comparative
case study of two different policy processes regarding adjustments to climatic conditions in
the coastal municipalities of Vellinge and Lomma in south-western Scania. In other words,
this study explores the underlying factors that can explain what drives anticipatory measures
to strengthen the ability and possibility to handle effects related to climate change. The
theoretical framework consists of theories regarding policy changes in social ecological
systems, and adaptation to climate. Structural actor based perspective, as well as system
oriented and process oriented have been applied.
The results are based on 14 interviews with key politicians, officials and stakeholders from
non-governmental organizations. The study is also based on reports, a citizen’s survey from
Statistics Sweden (SCB), newspaper articles, municipal documents, web sites and literature.
The results show that the municipality of Vellinge implemented adaptation strategies years
before Lomma municipality. Policy change was triggered by observed vulnerabilities in
ecological systems which affected the social systems. It resulted in an intense debate (a
window of opportunity), which in turn opened a policy window.
The driving forces in policy process are central actors and shadow networks with access to
knowledge. The results show that knowledge and understanding of ecological systems is
essential for policy changes in climate adaptations. Research is needed, but research by itself
will not be sufficient, research and knowledge must be transferred to decision-makers.
Knowledge transferring is even important for officials and public. That means that an
understanding of ecological systems is necessary for forming attitudes and for planning a
society with the ability to meet climate change and the insecurities which are connected with
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