in: Land Use Policy 58, 173-182
The livelihoods of resource-dependent peoples are vulnerable to climate variability. This study focuses on how local climate adaptations, which have been sustained through long-term interactions with local ecologies, have changed in the face of the challenges caused by climate change and policy interventions. Case studies were conducted in two agro-pastoral counties of northern China, a region that confronts frequent drought and that has experienced extensive institutional changes over recent decades. Based on the exploration of four adaptation strategies, the field results show that both counties have experienced an acceleration of livelihood diversification, an increase in storage and market exchanges, and a dramatic reduction in previously common pooling. The findings reveal that these adaptations are not a direct result of coping with climate risks but rather are indicative of livelihood strategies that result from the combined impacts of institutional, socioeconomic and climatic changes. Current institutional arrangements have negative impacts on local climate adaptations. This is particularly true for those with limited livelihood options, and such arrangements may therefore foster an increase in inequality with regard to household adaptive capacities over the long term. Therefore, this study recommends flexible policies that facilitate local arrangements rather than the current one-for-all policy.