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Climate change adaptation needs a science of culture

There is global consensus that we must immediately prioritize climate change adaptation—change in response to or anticipation of risks from climate change. Some researchers and policymakers urge ‘transformative change’, a complete break from past practices, yet report having little data on whether new practices reduce the risks communities face, even over the short term.

However, researchers have some leads: human communities have long generated solutions to changing climate, and scientists who study culture have examples of effective and persistent solutions.

This theme issue discusses cultural adaptation to climate change, and in this paper, we review how processes of biological adaptation, including innovation, modification, selective retention and transmission, shape the landscapes decision-makers care about—from which solutions emerge in communities, to the spread of effective adaptations, to regional or global collective action.

We introduce a comprehensive portal of data and models on cultural adaptation to climate change, and we outline ways forward.

This article is part of the theme issue ‘Climate change adaptation needs a science of culture’.

A. Pisor, J.S. Lansing, K. Magargal, Climate change adaptation needs a science of culture, Phil. Trans. Of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences 378(1889) (2023)

J. Stephen Lansing

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