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Keywords:

  • Development model;
  • resilience;
  • climate change;
  • adaptation;
  • development futures;
  • transition

Climate change poses a challenge to the dominant development paradigm with its concepts of modernisation, economic growth and globalisation which treat the environment as an externality and largely ignore climate variability. This article explores the extent of the challenge, drawing on archaeological evidence showing that adaptation to severe climate change can involve much more radical changes in human societies than are currently envisaged. Furthermore, short-term adaptation can result in long-term maladaptation, increasing vulnerability to climate shocks. The article argues that development urgently needs to shift its focus away from prevailing growth and yield-maximisation models towards alternatives encouraging resilience and risk-spreading.