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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - IRI THESys

Barriers to adaptation

Maria Bertrand is a doctoral researcher at IRI THESys at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin and at Climate Analytics gGmbH. Her main research interests are barriers and limits to adaptation, in particular institutional adaptation barriers, and processes & timescales to overcome them.


Fig.: Carl F. Schleußner

Source: Dr. Carl F. Schleußner: Schematic overview of the four work packages and their interlinkages. Cooperation with external partner institutes and key competences of the research consortium partners are highlighted for each work package.


Maria’s doctorate will be done as part (WP2) of the junior research group EmBARK led by Dr. Carl-Friedrich Schleussner at IRI THESys and Climate Analytics (WPs, see Figure 1). The EmBARK –project will investigate time scales and possible trajectories of socio-economic transformation processes and analyse their relevance as potential barriers to adaptation to climate change and will thus address the key components determining Loss and Damage (L&D) in the Paris Agreement.  The discussions on Loss and Damage (L&D) in the Paris Agreement at the UNFCCC COP’s currently lack scientific data to support the concept idea that the large emitters of greenhouse gases (the wealthier countries) should financially support vulnerable developing countries in their adaptation efforts. Seeing as L&D arises as a direct consequence of adaptation barriers, an idea arises to assess barriers to adaptation in a climate vulnerable region.  Maria’s overall research question is therefore:

  • “What are the barriers to adaptation in the Caribbean region and what are the processes and temporal dynamics for overcoming them in order to avoid climate change related Loss & Damage?”
and the research will be undertaken focusing on the Caribbean region, which mainly consists of SIDS and is particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts. The objectives of this research is to: 
a) determine the barriers to adaptation in this region,
b) determine possible processes to overcome these barriers and timescales for these processes and lastly, 
c) to provide the UNFCCC negotiations with scientific data to better support the discussions of the Paris agreement in general and in particular the Loss and Damage discussions and decisions concerning financial support for climate change vulnerable nations.
The key methods to be used are:
  1. Systematic literature review of available adaptation literature and documentation in the region. This standardised approach will enable a quantitative meta-analysis and will include both, peer-reviewed and non-peer reviewed relevant literature.
  2. Expert survey designed based on the research hypotheses developed from the systematic literature review under Step i., distributed at a regional ‘barriers to adaptation’ workshop. The results of the survey and the workshop will provide important input to substantiate the results of the systematic literature review and allow for a regional extension/elaboration of the indicators developed under  WP1.  
  3. Qualitative semi-structured expert interviews with persons involved in adaptation measures in the region. This is of particular relevance, as several elements of the current working hypothesis on barriers to adaptation are linked to sensitive institutional or political processes (e.g. corruption) that are likely not to be reported openly in either workshops or surveys.

Maria has a MSc from Gothenburg University in Environmental Sciences. Before joining the research group, Maria worked in Dominica as an Environmental Officer at the Environmental Coordinating Unit (ECU), as Technical Consultant at the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), as Environmental Technical Officer at the Dominica Bureau of Standards (DBOS) and as a Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist at the World Bank. In Sweden she worked as a project manager at the Swedish Board of Agriculture and regional manager at Miljöbron.


Photo: Maria Bertrand


Maria Bertrand, Doctoral Researcher
THESys Graduate Program
E-mail: Maria.bertrand@climateanalytics.org
Office location: Climate Analytics, Ritterstraße 3, 10969 Berlin