weADAPT: celebrating 10 years at the forefront of climate change adaptation research and practice

Written by Karen Brandon

Wednesday, 25 October 2017 12:46

weADAPT case studies mapGlobal map of weADAPT case studies in 2017. Click on the photo to activate a video showing case studies added over the past decade.            Credit: Jonathan Kemp / SEI 

weADAPT, SEI’s global platform and network for climate change adaptation issues, is marking its 10th anniversary in 2017 with new collaborations and technologies to enhance its outreach.

Since it was created by the SEI Oxford Centre in 2007, weADAPT has become a signature online “open space” that allows practitioners, researchers and policy-makers from around the globe to access credible, high-quality information, and to share with one another the experiences and lessons from the frontier of climate adaptation work. As the platform embarks on its second decade, it is expanding in three key avenues:

  • Partner microsites: In response to partner requests, weADAPT recently launched a new service that supports the development of individually branded websites for others also working on climate change adaptation or related sustainability issues. The inaugural project, now online, was created with Ouranos, a multidisciplinary Canadian research consortium that analyses climate adaptation issues in the North American context. The consortium’s “Energy Adaptation Map” brings together case studies highlighting the importance of and barriers to adaptation in the energy sector. “At Ouranos, we had collected energy sector adaptation case studies from around the world and wanted to make this database available online. Instead of re-inventing the wheel and setting up yet another climate change adaptation web site, we found that the intuitive and simple map interface of weADAPT was a perfect match to what we had imagined”, Ouranos climate scientist Marco Braun, said. “We couldn’t have done better than collaborating with weADAPT.”

  • New-tech connections: Increasingly, weADAPT is applying cutting-edge technologies to ensure that people and content across the site are connected in innovative ways. The latest technologies in semantic tagging and advanced search mechanisms are being incorporated behind the scenes to make it easier for users to explore the site, and to discover content that they need and want. Such technologies also make possible additional research and analysis of the climate adaptation research and practices that are shared daily on the site. For example, the weADAPT team plays an active role in the PLACARD project that strives to better connect climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction communities.This work enhances tagging technology, supports actionable learning, and links science to policy and practice. At the same time, new visual analysis technologies used by weADAPT make use of tagging to show how contributed subject content has developed in response to international processes and new collaborations on emerging topics in adaptation.

The animation shown below uses weADAPT's tagging technology to visually demonstrate the growth of content (small red nodes) contributed to weADAPT. New thematic areas are shown by large blue nodes, and networks are shown by large red nodes.

Related Themes Networks Content Year by Year updated GIF screenshotClick image above to watch an animated GIF showing the year-by-year growth of themes and networks within weADAPT. (Animation by Jonathan Kemp, SEI Oxford Centre intern.)

As the expanding agenda and outreach of weADAPT’s work suggest, the walking fish, the platform's visual symbol, has come a long way in its decade-long journey. weADAPT began as an idea among a handful of UK-based climate adaptation researchers, grew to incorporate a few articles on a wiki site, and then went on to become a full-fledged global platform (linking to other platforms, such as  the University of Cape Town Climate Information Portal) connecting a global community of researchers, practitioners, advocates and policy-makers.

Though the technology and reach of weADAPT and the science and practice of climate adaptation have changed markedly over the past decade, the core mission of weADAPT has not. Two of weADAPT’s founders, Anna Taylor and Ben Smith recently recalled writing an email to advocates in 2007 when the effort was just beginning, listing key aims. “A read of this list a decade later shows – strikingly – how relevant they remain,” the two wrote. Indeed, these evolved into the platform’s adaptation principles:

  • Collecting and integrating spatial quantitative and qualitative data on current vulnerability;

  • Analysing climate conditions and trends;

  • Calculating thresholds of exposure to climatic risks in a variety of sectors or groups;

  • Charting envelopes of climate scenarios for critical thresholds;

  • Estimating sensitivity of adaptation options to future conditions; and

  • Screening options using simple, clearly defined methods whenever possible, while providing more complex models where required.

In the years since, the name, weADAPT, has been at the leading edge of fostering, capturing and sharing new developments in the field of climate adaptation, linking theory, policy and practice across scales and places.

“The story of how we chose the weADAPT name offers the best sense of the spirit of the enterprise,” Taylor and Smith recalled. “Our early development began in the days when Apple was rapidly becoming the international icon of innovation and high-tech simplicity, with the iPod dominating the market and the iPhone just being released. This provided a source of inspiration, and the first proposed name for the platform, iADAPT. But we quickly argued that for climate adaptation to work it couldn’t be an individual pursuit. Instead the mission relies on collaboration, coordination and collective effort. Because the scale of action required to address climate change is well beyond any individual or organization the nature of such action and learning has to be shared; hence, not the solitary iADAPT but the communal, weADAPT. This distinction was then – and, 10 years on, still is – central in all we do.”

weADAPT 10-year animated map

This video shows the growing number and geographical spread of weADAPT case studies, which are represented by white dots. (Video by Jonathan Kemp, SEI)

Share:
FacebookTwitterLinkedin