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Exploring social barriers to adaptation: Insights from Western Nepal

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Written by Lindsey Jones

As the challenges and opportunities posed by climate change become increasingly apparent, the need for facilitating successful adaptation and enhancing adaptive capacity within the context of sustainable development is clear.
With adaptation high on the agenda, the notion of limits and barriers to adaptation has recently received much attention within both academic and policymaking spheres. While emerging literature has been quick to depict limits and barriers in terms of natural, financial, or technologic processes, there is a clear shortfall in acknowledging social barriers to adaptation. It is against such a backdrop that this paper sets out to expose and explore some of the underlying features of social barriers to adaptation, drawing on insights from two case studies in the Western Nepal.
This paper exposes the significant role of cognitive, normative and institutional factors in both influencing and prescribing adaptation. It explores how restrictive social environments can limit adaptation actions and influence adaptive capacity at the local level, particularly for the marginalised and socially excluded. The findings suggest a need for greater recognition of the diversity and complexity of social barriers, strategic planning and incorporation at national and local levels, as well as an emphasis on tackling the underlying drivers of vulnerability and social exclusion.

Lindsey Jones, Emily Boyd