In this paper, we propose a comprehensive Public Choice framework to identify and categorize barriers to efficient public climate adaptation. Specifically, we distinguish three dimensions of public adaptation: extent, structure (form and timing) and organisation (vertical and horizontal). Within each of these dimensions, we investigate how the self-interest of voters, pressure groups, bureaucrats and politicians may bias adaptation decisions. Thus, we indicate specific barriers to efficient public adaptation. Based on this framework, we illustrate how Germany's response to major flood disasters reflects the incentive structure of concerned stakeholders and their political interaction. The ad-hoc character of some public adaptation measures implies a clear bias from the efficient benchmark. In conclusion, we argue that the propositions of Public Choice theory shed some light on how empirical public adaptation processes unfold.