New UK Government Publications on an Integral Approach to Climate Change

David Ballard
August 30th, 2013
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The UK Government (Environmental Ministry) just published a significant report regarding societal and industrial adaptation to climate change. It was written by David Ballard (who has published in the Journal of Integral Theory and Practice) and his team. This is a pretty significant application of AQAL integral theory (using quadrants, levels, and lines) and has undergone peer review process to be formally published by the UK government. We thought you'd appreciate seeing this!

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Dear friends,

I hope that this email finds you all well. Two major reports on organisational and industry-wide responses to climate adaptation, written by Alexander Ballard Ltd (of which I am a Director), were published by Defra (the UK’s environment ministry) on 1st July.

The first report is the first assessment of the UK’s ‘Adaptive Capacity’ to respond to the impacts of climate change. This was prepared as part of the UK’s first Climate Change Risk Assessment, on which I was a member of the Steering Committee. The report uses a radically new methodology: previously, adaptive capacity has been assessed by measuring population-level indicators (e.g. literacy) since some of these correlate well with the capacity to recover from disasters. However, these do not necessarily correlate at all with the capacity to adapt to climate impacts, many of which may lie in the future and be accompanied by major uncertainties. It is necessary for decision-makers to prepare for these impacts, however, since many major decisions last for many decades and need to take account of a future that may be very different.

The report looks at a selection of climate risks from 8 industries in depth. It shows that there are considerable challenges in responding to many risks, this being a function both of the ‘structural capacity’ of the industry (i.e. of structural barriers to change), also of its ‘organisational capacity’. In other words, it will not be as easy to adapt to climate change as some might assume. The report is also intended to show where interventions might be helpful.

We have successfully used this approach to assess capacity and to recommend places for possible intervention in a number of Asian and African industries since first developing it in the CCRA.

The research was undertaken roughly two years ago. Given the novelty of the methodology, and quite properly, Defra submitted the report to peer review, which it comfortably passed, and we are delighted now to see it published after responding to reviewers’ suggestions. Our report has already been used as a major source for the Economics of Climate Resilience project published earlier this year; both the ECR and our own reports have been produced to support development of the UK Government’s National Adaptation Plan, which is also due for publication in July 2013.

People at the 2011 Venwoude event may remember that this research was being completed at that stage – and that early results were being shared and discussed. The PACT approach that underpins this report of course owes a great deal to Ken Wilber and to Susanne Cook-Greuter insights, etc. Climate responses – on both mitigation and adaptation – require extremely high organisational – indeed social – capacity, which is not normally available. Of course the report was written primarily for a blue/ orange audience, often with very positivistic ideas as to what counts for an acceptable epistemology and it could sometimes be frustrating – much had to be left on the floor of the editing room. I could not restrain myself altogether, however, and was rather surprised that so much of the writing on biodiversity managed to get through to publication. This section actually manages to quote Gregory Bateson!

Copies of the Adaptive Capacity report may be downloaded below.

The second report investigates barriers and enablers to increasing capacity. It follows on from the Adaptive Capacity report. This report was part of a wider and quite ambitious programme that had the purpose of helping those charged with implementing the UK’s first National Adaptation Plan. Our own research looks at barriers to capacity raising for adaptation, also at how capacity might practically be increased.

It is probably the largest piece of work yet undertaken of this type and it has been very well received. The Defra client said that the overall programme ‘has produced what I think is a quite unique and new picture of the views of businesses and the public’.

Copies of the research into barriers and enablers to increasing adaptive capacity may also be downloaded below.

The research is the first, we think, that looks explicitly at the process of capacity development, clearly linked to Ken Wilber and other hierarchical theorists. The results show a very clear difference between lowest and highest levels of capacity. The results are actually quite sobering. It should be noted that very few high capacity organisations indeed could be recruited from the quantitative exercise – only one out of around 1950 met the (not very challenging) criteria. We conducted primary research here, only comparing and contrasting with the PACT framework after completing the work. In practice we were unable to differentiate between the highest levels of capacity in PACT terms, the numbers at the higher levels being so small.

You might also be interested in the use of Ken Wilber’s AQAL Framework for categorising barriers. This worked reasonably well, though the inevitable limitations of the interviewing approach meant that – I think – there was almost certainly considerably more that could have been discovered in the left hand quadrants. Of course this follows on from ‘Using the AQAL framework to accelerate responses to climate change’, an article I wrote with input from colleagues Peter Reason and Gill Coleman which applies the AQAL framework for climate mitigation purposes and which was published in the Journal of Integral Theory and Practice following review by Ken Wilber. This was an output of the ‘Insider Voices’ project undertaken with University of Bath colleagues a few years ago – copies of the article may also be downloaded below. It was distributed and discussed at Venwoude.

With very best wishes,


Article downloads:

Assessment of the UK’s Adaptive Capacity for Responding to the Impacts of Climate Change
David Ballard, Doogie Black and Kate Lonsdale

This report was produced for Defra, the UK’s Environment Ministry. It looks at the capacity of industrial sectors in the UK to respond to information about current and potential future climate impacts. Innovative in approach, it was produced as part of the UK’s first Climate Change Risk Assessment, on which ABL’s David Ballard was a member of the Steering Committee. It was a major input to the Economics of Climate Resilience Project, which was also published in 2013.

PREPARE – Barriers and Enablers to Organisational and Sectoral Adaptive Capacity: Qualitative Study
David Ballard, Carole Bond, Nick Pyatt et al.

This report was commissioned by Defra, the UK’s Environment Ministry, to explore some of the implications of the Adaptive Capacity report (see above) in more detail. The report covers insights from 73 in-depth qualitative interviews carried out with decision taking and with ‘framework organisations’ (who set the context within which other organisations act) in the UK. These show how barriers change as capacity to adapt increases and discusses how capacity might be raised most effectively. The report also benefits from almost 2000 quantitative interviews carried out by our project partners, Ipsos MORI.

Using the AQAL Framework to Accelerate Responses to Climate Change
David Ballard, Peter Reason, Gill Coleman

This article was published in the Journal of Integral Theory and Practice in March 2010 and summarises some of the main insights from the ‘Insider Voices’ project (see below). The article benefited from review by and detailed discussion with Ken Wilber himself, who described it not only as a major contribution to the field of climate change, but also to Integral Theory itself.


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