In this article, we argue that people’s adjustments to multiple shocks and changes, such as conflict and drought, are intrinsically political processes that have uneven outcomes. Strengthening local adaptive capacity is a critical component of adapting to climate change. Based on fieldwork in two areas in Kenya, we investigate how people seek to access livelihood adjustment options and promote particular adaptation interests through forming social relations and political alliances to influence collective decision-making. First, we find that, in the face of drought and conflict, relations are formed among individuals, politicians, customary institutions, and government administration aimed at retaining or strengthening power bases in addition to securing material means of survival. Second, national economic and political structures and processes affect local adaptive capacity in fundamental ways, such as through the unequal allocation of resources across regions, development policy biased against pastoralism, and competition for elected political positions. Third, conflict is part and parcel of the adaptation process, not just an external factor inhibiting local adaptation strategies. Fourth, there are relative winners and losers of adaptation, but whether or not local adjustments to drought and conflict compound existing inequalities depends on power relations at multiple geographic scales that shape how conflicting interests are negotiated locally. Climate change adaptation policies are unlikely to be successful or minimize inequity unless the political dimensions of local adaptation are considered; however, existing power structures and conflicts of interests represent political obstacles to developing such policies.