Climate change adaptation in small island developing states: Insights and lessons from a meta-paradigmatic study

This paper describes how an earlier study’s novel, meta-paradigmatic approach was used to answer two research questions of international significance: (1) How are small island developing states (SIDS) adapting to climate change at the national level? and (2) What are the factors that affect adaptation at the national level in SIDS? As acknowledged in the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, SIDS are distinct from other developing countries. They are 58 countries spread across three main geographic regions that are disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of climate change; they require special attention and support from the international community. Previous studies using a single theory to understand adaptation in SIDS were limited and unable to fully grapple with the totality, enormity and complexity of the climate challenge. This paper argues for capitalising on the value of the distinctiveness of different theories and approaches without having to integrate them into one paradigm. It further catalogues the earlier study’s contributions to climate change adaptation scholarship and theory-building. It does not seek to rationalise the earlier study or justify any theoretical perspective. Instead, it seeks to serve as an incubator for new thinking on investigating climate adaptation in complex geographies. Additionally, it teases out lessons and insights for national governments and other actors that are designing and implementing climate change adaptation policies and programs in disproportionately vulnerable countries in the Global South.