Articles | Volume 13, issue 12
Research article
20 Dec 2013
Research article |  | 20 Dec 2013

Assessing institutional capacities to adapt to climate change: integrating psychological dimensions in the Adaptive Capacity Wheel

T. Grothmann, K. Grecksch, M. Winges, and B. Siebenhüner

Abstract. Several case studies show that social factors like institutions, perceptions and social capital strongly affect social capacities to adapt to climate change. Together with economic and technological development they are important for building social capacities.

However, there are almost no methodologies for the systematic assessment of social factors. After reviewing existing methodologies we identify the Adaptive Capacity Wheel (ACW) by Gupta et al. (2010), developed for assessing the adaptive capacity of institutions, as the most comprehensive and operationalised framework to assess social factors. The ACW differentiates 22 criteria to assess 6 dimensions: variety, learning capacity, room for autonomous change, leadership, availability of resources, fair governance.

To include important psychological factors we extended the ACW by two dimensions: "adaptation motivation" refers to actors' motivation to realise, support and/or promote adaptation to climate; "adaptation belief" refers to actors' perceptions of realisability and effectiveness of adaptation measures.

We applied the extended ACW to assess adaptive capacities of four sectors – water management, flood/coastal protection, civil protection and regional planning – in northwestern Germany. The assessments of adaptation motivation and belief provided a clear added value. The results also revealed some methodological problems in applying the ACW (e.g. overlap of dimensions), for which we propose methodological solutions.

Final-revised paper