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MARI/CCPO Seminar Series

Adaptation Science: Developing a new Scientific Field in Responds to Climate Change

Hans-Peter Plag, Mitigation and Adaptation Research Institute (MARI), Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA, USA. E: hpplag at

Climate change and sea level rise are increasingly impacting our lives. However, they are symptoms of a larger and more complex transition out of the Holocene, the safe operating space for humanity (as Rockström et al. describe the Holocene in a Nature publication in 2009) into the new geological epoch of the Post-Holocene. Challenged by this transition, we need to find ways to adapt to a future with a climate unknown to humanity and with potentially new, or modified, chemical, physical, and biological processes dominating the Earth's surface dynamics. There is an urgent need to develop the new field of adaptation science capable of producing the practice-relevant knowledge supporting society in finding a path to adaptation to a new climate, a modified spectrum of extreme events, and potentially much higher sea levels. As outlined by Moss et al. in a recent paper in Science, adaptation science will have to deepen our understanding of the hazards we are likely to face, provide knowledge of our vulnerability with respect to these hazards, improve our foresight in terms of what might happen, develop our understanding of decision making processes and the societal constraints for decision making, and develop options that are viable in a given cultural, legal, and economic context. The Mitigation and Adaptation Research Institute at ODU is working with societal stakeholders to co-design a research agenda along these lines.