Action on climate change continues to be hampered by vested interests seeding doubt about science and the need to reduce carbon emissions. Using a qualitative case study of local climate adaptation to sea level rise, we show how climate change science is translated into a self-referential theory focussed on property prices. Our analysis develops two mechanisms – enablement and theorization – to explain the relationship between theory performativity and power within a process of translation. This contributes to i) the performativity debate by showing how the constitution of power relations shapes theory performativity; ii) theories of power, by tracing the ways in which certain actors are able to enrol others and impact the authority of particular theories, and; iii) processes of translation by developing mechanisms for following the ways in which power and theory performativity interact. We conclude by arguing that a performative understanding of how power shapes beliefs is central to combat the failure to address climate change.