Adoption versus adaptation, with Emphasis on climate change

David Zilberman*, Jinhua Zhao, Amir Heiman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


This article presents lessons from the rich adoption literature for the nascent research on adaptation. Individuals' adoption choices are affected by profit and risk considerations and by credit and biophysical constraints. New technologies spread gradually, reflecting heterogeneity among potential adopters, processes of learning and technological improvement, and policies and institutions. Adaptation is the response of economic agents and societies to major shocks. We distinguish between reactive and proactive adaptation. The latter is important in the context of climate change and consists of mitigation, reassessment, and innovation that aim to affect the timing and location of shocks. Adaptation strategies also include adoption of innovation and technology transfer across locations, insurance and international trade, and migration and invasions. Recent research emphasizes multidisciplinary collaborations; historical analysis; and the roles of returns to scale of key technologies, social networks, behavioral economics, path dependency, and ex ante adjustment in explaining patterns of adoption and adaptation.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)27-53
Number of pages27
JournalAnnual Review of Resource Economics
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • diffusion
  • environmental economics
  • imitation
  • information
  • learning
  • mitigation
  • resource economics
  • risk
  • trade


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