EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Leveraging the transformative potential of shocks: a conceptual framework to reach the adaptigation goal

Thomas Thaler1, Eva Posch2, Sebastian Seebauer3, and Claudia Winkler3
Thomas Thaler et al.
  • 1Institute of Mountain Risk Engineering, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna
  • 2Department of Public Finance, University of Innsbruck
  • 3LIFE - Institute for Climate, Energy and Society, JOANNEUM RESEARCH Forschungsgesellschaft mbh, Graz, Austria

Recent examples of climate-driven catastrophes both internationally (e.g. US and Australian wildfires in 2020) and nationally in Africa or Europe, as well as climate scenarios highlight that climate change impacts will likely reach dimensions which pose substantive shocks to social, economic and ecological systems in the near future. At some point, this increased number of shocks will overstretch current individual and collective coping capacities. However, on the other side catastrophic shocks may enable the transformation to decarbonisation and resilience of our society, if the rebuilding phase after an event is used for a broad societal transformation process and not only for quickly bouncing back to the pre-shock situation. A rushed return to normality may come at the cost of forgoing lengthy and challenging transformation processes, which may ultimately reorient a system to higher resilience. Fast recovery from shocks typically mobilizes extensive resources but often lacks an integrated perspective on climate change adaptation and mitigation policies (‘adaptigation’) that could leverage synergies and build up for long-term responses to climate impacts. Instead, many policies implemented after shocks act in isolated or even competitive silos, cater to immediate demands by affected citizens and businesses, and have different goals, instruments, financial resources, administrative practices, time perspectives, or lack of imagination how to implement. The aim of the paper is therefore to illustrate how the transformative potential of shocks can be leveraged to lower carbon emissions, higher climate resilience and encompassing adaptigation policy. This contribution presents a conceptual framework that focuses on the interaction between the individual actors affected by a shock, and the policy instruments in place in the aftermath of a shock. We strive to learn from past and current reactions to inform the future with the aim of directing post-shock learning to transformation outcomes and to avoiding maladaptation, backfire or inaction pitfalls. The paper derives guidance how to leverage the transformative potential of shocks by dedicated policy action, in order to promote outcomes congruent with the Sustainable Development Goals and the targets of European and Austrian climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. The conceptual framework can be expected to apply to a wide range of emerging, novel or familiar shocks.

How to cite: Thaler, T., Posch, E., Seebauer, S., and Winkler, C.: Leveraging the transformative potential of shocks: a conceptual framework to reach the adaptigation goal, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-11380,, 2022.