Transformational Adaptation in the Context of Coastal Cities

Coastal cities, home to more than three billion people and growing rapidly, are highly vulnerable to climate change. Increasingly, there are calls for climate adaptation that goes beyond business-as-usual approaches, transforms socioeconomic systems, and addresses underlying drivers of vulnerability. Although calls for transformational adaptation are growing, greater clarity is needed on what transformation means in context in order to bridge the gap between theory and practice. This article reviews the theoretical literature on transformational adaptation, as well as practitioner frameworks and case studies of urban coastal adaptation. The article discusses specific challenges for transformational adaptation and its governance in coastal cities. In doing so, this review contributes to the growing debate about operationalizing the concept of transformational adaptation in the context of coastal cities and offers insights to ensure that transformation processes are inclusive and equitable.

Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Environment and Resources, Volume 46 is October 2021.

Please see for revised estimates.


Laura Kuhl,1 M. Feisal Rahman,2 Samantha McCraine,3 Dunja Krause,4 Md Fahad Hossain,5 Aditya Vansh Bahadur,6 and Saleemul Huq5

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1School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, and International Affairs Program, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA; email: 

2Department of Geography, Durham University, Durham DH1 3LE, United Kingdom; email: 

3World Wildlife Fund for Nature, Washington, DC 20037, USA; email: 

4United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland; email: 

5International Centre for Climate Change and Development, London TW2 6EJ, United Kingdom; email: 

6International Institute for Environment and Development, London WC1X 8NH, United Kingdom; email:  [/toggle]


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