Climate change adaptation processes seen through a resilience lens: Norwegian farmers’ handling of the dry summer of 2018

July 2022
Elsevier, ScienceDirect
Environmental Science & Policy

Climate change and more frequent extreme weather events are expected to significantly challenge food production and food security worldwide, underlining the need for adaptation within the agricultural sector. Although Norway, as other Nordic countries, potentially benefits from higher temperatures in terms of agricultural production, adaptation will be necessary. Employing resilience as a theoretical lens, this study investigates Norwegian farmers’ handling of the dry summer of 2018, a summer that comprehensively challenged agricultural production throughout Europe. In-depth interviews revealed that farmers’ main strategy was to improve their buffer capacity to be able to ‘bounce back’ (i.e., to get ‘through’ the summer to return to a ‘normal’ situation). Informal and formal networks, access to outfield resources and governmental support played key roles in enhancing the buffer capacity. Structural changes in the agricultural sector seem to challenge future access to the resources needed to improve the buffer capacity in times of crisis. Within the current environmental, social and political framework, farms are considered resilient, and strengthening buffer capacity is reasonable. However, a higher frequency of extreme weather events may require that other capacities, such as adaptive or transformative, be improved. Thus, resilience is not a given state and independent of values but strongly context dependent. To achieve long-term resilience, climate change adaptation needs to be politically encouraged and economically supported. Farmers need flexibility to use local resources. Worries about structural changes may draw farmers’ attention away from making potentially important adaptations to climate change.