Governance of wicked climate adaptation problems

Gepubliceerd op
30 juli 2013


Termeer, C., Dewulf, A. & Breeman, G. (2013). Governance of wicked climate adaptation problems. In: J. Knieling & W. Leal Filho (Eds). Climate Change Governance. Berlin: Springer, pp. 27-39.


Climate change adaptation has been called a 'wicked problem par excellence.' Wicked problems are hard to define because 'the formulation of the problem is the problem; they are considered a symptom of another problem; they are highly resistant to solutions and extremely interconnected with other problems.

Climate change problems are even more complex because they lack a well-structured policy domain, and knowledge about climate change is uncertain and contested. Given the wicked charasteristics of the climate issue and its particular challenges, the question is which theories are useful starting points for the governance of climate adaptation?

The chapter distinguishes between theories and concepts that focus on reflexivity, on resilience, on responsiveness and on revitalisation. Instead of integrating these theories in one overarching governance approach, the chapter suggests an approach of theoretical multiplicity. It proposes that exploiting the variety of concepts and strategies based on the different theories can increase the governance capacity to deal with climate change.

Finally, it addresses the moral dimension of wicked problem, which suggests that it is unacceptable to treat a wicked problem as though it were a tame one. Governance scholars nowadays risk raising expectations far beyond their ability to deliver, and thus enchance confusions over whether wicked problems are in fact tame ones.