Goal Conflicts in Adaptation to Climate Change. An inventory of goal conflicts tn the Swedish sectors of the built environment, tourism and outdoor recreation, and human health


  • Karin Edvardsson Björnberg
  • Åsa Svenfelt

Publish date: 2009-06-10

Report number: FOI-R--2747--SE

Pages: 100

Written in: Swedish


  • climate change
  • adaptation
  • goal conflicts
  • physical planning
  • environmental objectives
  • built environment
  • tourism/outdoo recreation
  • human health


Decision-making concerning adaptation to climate change often involves choosing between different options, each of which can have important implications for the achievability of other goals and policies. Sometimes, conflicts arise between the goal of adaptation and other policy goals. This occurs when the implementation of an adaptation measure makes it more difficult to achieve some other goal that the decision maker aims to achieve. To avoid producing negative impacts on other goals, the decision maker must have a good understanding of the long- and short-term consequences (environmental, economic, social and ethical) of her decisions. In other words, before an adaptation measure is decided on, two things must be established: how successful the measure will be in terms of expected effectiveness and cost efficiency and how appropriate it is given the decision maker's other aims and goals. Ideally, an adaptation measure should be sustainable in the sense that it is effective in abating the negative effects of climate change (or seizing new opportunities engendered by such changes) without negatively affecting other goals and values. The fact that adaptation decisions generally produce more than one outcome points to the need for assessing and predicting the environmental, social and economic impacts of individual adaptation measures, strategies or policies at an early stage in the decision-making process. To ensure the coherence of adaptation measures with other policy goals, there is a need for tools to assess and predict outcomes, but also to balance those outcomes and trade them off in situations where they are not easily reunited. So far, relatively little research has been performed on goal conflicts and conflict resolution in adaptation to climate change. The aim of this report, which was produced as part of Climatools' research programme (www.climatools.se), is to provide basic data on what kind of goal conflicts Swedish decision makers will likely have to handle as they make decisions concerning adaptation in the sectors of the built environment, tourism and outdoor recreation, and human health. As the report shows, goal conflicts in adaptation are common phenomena. Sometimes, adaptation conflicts with mitigation efforts, such as when airconditioning and other mechanical cooling systems used to reduce heat-related mortality also increase carbon dioxide emissions. At other times, adaptation conflicts with goals concerning the preservation of natural and cultural values, such as when ski establishments are relocated to meet snow deficits, resulting in biodiversity loss and damage to landscape integrity. Often, adaptation conflicts with some goals while at the same time benefits others, which makes choices concerning adaptation complex and difficult to manage. Different types of goal conflicts will likely require different types of solutions. Perhaps the most obvious strategy to avoid conflicts is to make sure that they do not arise: for example, by investing in intensified action to mitigate climate change. Other conflicts can be avoided by exchanging the considered adaptation measure to an alternative (more sustainable) one. In those situations, the alternative adaptation measure may not be equally successful in preventing harm (or taking advantage of opportunities) as the former measure was but may result in better overall goal achievement and, therefore, emerge as a preferred alternative to governmental decision makers who are generally responsible for working towards many different goals. As the Climatools research program proceeds, these methods of conflict management/resolution and others will be studied with the aim of delivering user-friendly decision tools that can assist social planners and decision makers in their day-to-day adaptation work.

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