Rethinking the limits of climate change adaptation

This paper considers the potential extent of adaptation to sea level rise by examining the adaptation of communities in low-lying Philippine islands that flood during spring tides. Sea level rise poses a serious threat to small island developing states. Although communities at risk are already implementing various strategies to address it, a lack of case studies prevents them from understanding the potential extent of adaptation. This paper tackles this gap by examining the case of low-lying islands in the Philippines that become flooded during spring tides as a result of earthquake-induced land subsidence. Its findings show that, while development problems constrain communities’ adaptive capacity, people’s outlook on their future may ultimately determine the limits of adaptation.