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Human adaptation to climate change: An introduction to the special issue

Pisor, A.C. & Jones, J.H. (2021)

American Journal of Human Biology

Objectives Despite our focus on adaptation and human responses to climate, evolutionary and biological anthropologists (EBAs) are largely absent from conversations about contemporary “climate-change adaptation,” a term popular in other disciplines, the development world, and related policy decisions. EBAs are missing a big opportunity to contribute to impactful, time-sensitive applied work: we have extensive theoretical and empirical knowledge pertinent to conversations about climate-change adaptation and to helping support communities as they cope. This special issue takes a tour of EBA contributions to our understanding of climate-change adaptation, from data on past and contemporary human communities to theoretically informed predictions about how individuals and communities will respond to climate change now and in the future. First, however, we must establish what we mean by “climate change” and “adaptation,” along with other terms commonly used by EBAs; review what EBAs know about adaptation and about human responses to climate change; and identify just a few topics EBAs study that are pertinent to ongoing conversations about climate-change adaptation. In this article, we do just that.

Conclusion From our work on energy use to our work on demography, subsistence, social networks, and the salience of climate change to local communities, EBAs have an abundance of data and theoretical insights to help inform responses to contemporary climate change. We need to better reach the climate community and general public with our contributions.