Adapting agriculture to climate change

 Identifiering av tröskelvärden
 Sivakiruthika Natchimuthu

Rising temperatures, more and irregular precipitation, longer growing seasons, more pests. Climate change will bring new challenges for agriculture, with increased opportunities as well as larger risks. In this project that ran 2014-2018, we studied how agriculture can meet these challenges and what unintended negative effects, or maladaptation, may arise. The results demonstrate the importance of including maladaptation as an analytical perspective in adaptation assessments and adaptation decision making. Multiple trade-offs in adaptation decision-making have been identified in this project, which need to be addressed in future adaptation strategies.

Research on adapting society to climate change and its effects has increased dramatically in recent years. Many studies on the ability to adapt from the global to the local level have contributed to a better understanding of the forces driving adaptation to climate change, as well as the obstacles involved. We are now in a position where more and more studies are starting to identify negative effects of potential climate adaptation measures. These include increased emissions of greenhouse gases, increased socio-economic vulnerability for certain social groups and conflicts between different environmental objectives, such as climate adaptation versus biodiversity. These negative effects of adaptation measures are called maladaptation; measures intended to adapt to climate change may have effects, often unintentional, that may increase vulnerability instead of decreasing it.

Maladaptation in agriculture

Despite this increasing awareness, an overall discussion on maladaptation is still missing. This project aimed to identify and evaluate threshold values for maladaptation in the agricultural sector. It also analyzed trade-offs between various strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the effects of climate change. The project was based on a new methodology that integrates visualization, participatory methods and serious gaming. Representatives from the agricultural sector in Sweden and Finland participated by playing a specifically designed game, in which they explored adaptation measures the potential negative consequences of such measures.  The game is web-based and can be accessed at

Research issues

The following research issues were studied:

  • How can Maladaptation be conceptualized?
  •  What measures can lead to maladaptation in the agricultural sector in the Nordic countries?
  • What are Nordic agricultural stakeholders’ perceptions of maladaptation?
  • What trade-offs can be identified between different adaptation measures, between adaptation and mitigation, and between adaptation and other policies and measures related to agriculture?
  • What are the benefits and challenges of using serious games as support in interviews and focus group dialogues?

The results of the project are summarized in the Project Briefing.

Briefing - Maladaptation in agriculture 

 Insights and key messages from a nordic research project

Research Leader

Research Group