IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability Technological limits

Technological adaptations can serve as a potent means of adapting to climate variability and change. New technologies can be developed to adapt to climate change, and the transfer of appropriate technologies to developing countries forms an important component of the UNFCCC (Mace, 2006). However, there are also potential limits to technology as an adaptation response to climate change.

First, technology is developed and applied in a social context, and decision-making under uncertainty may inhibit the adoption or development of technological solutions to climate change adaptation (Tol et al., 2006). For example, case studies from the Rhine delta, the Thames estuary and the Rhone delta in Europe suggest that although protection from five-metre sea-level rise is technically possible, a combination of accommodation and retreat is more likely as an adaptation strategy (Tol et al., 2006).

Second, although some adaptations may be technologically possible, they may not be economically feasible or culturally desirable. For example, within the context of Africa, large-scale engineering measures for coastal protection are beyond the reach of many governments due to high costs (Ikeme, 2003). In colder climates that support ski tourism, the extra costs of making snow at warmer average temperatures may surpass a threshold where it becomes economically unfeasible (Scott et al., 2003; Scott et al., 2007). Although the construction of snow domes and indoor arenas for alpine skiing has increased in recent years, this technology may not be an affordable, acceptable or appropriate adaptation to decreasing snow cover for many communities dependent on ski tourism. Finally, existing or new technology is unlikely to be equally transferable to all contexts and to all groups or individuals, regardless of the extent of country-to-country technology transfers (Baer, 2006). Adaptations that are effective in one location may be ineffective in other places, or create new vulnerabilities for other places or groups, particularly through negative side effects. For example, although technologies such as snowmobiles and GPS have facilitated adaptation to climate change among some Inuit hunters, these are not equally accessible to all, and they have potentially contributed to inequalities within the community through differential access to resources (Ford et al., 2006).