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Adoption Versus Adaptation, with Emphasis on Climate Change


  • David Zilberman

    () (Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720)

  • Jinhua Zhao

    (Department of Economics, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824)

  • Amir Heiman

    (Department of Agricultural Economics and Management, Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Rehovot, 76100, Israel)


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.

Suggested Citation

  • David Zilberman & Jinhua Zhao & Amir Heiman, 2012. "Adoption Versus Adaptation, with Emphasis on Climate Change," Annual Review of Resource Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 4(1), pages 27-53, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:anr:reseco:v:4:y:2012:p:27-53

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    3. Saint Ville, Arlette S. & Hickey, Gordon M. & Phillip, Leroy E., 2017. "How do stakeholder interactions influence national food security policy in the Caribbean? The case of Saint Lucia," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 68(C), pages 53-64.
    4. Kaixing Huang, 2015. "The Economic Impacts of Global Warming on Agriculture: the Role of Adaptation," School of Economics Working Papers 2015-20, University of Adelaide, School of Economics.
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    7. Sauer, Johannes & Finger, Robert, 2014. "Climate Risk Management Strategies in Agriculture – The Case of Flood Risk," 2014 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2014, Minneapolis, Minnesota 172679, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    8. Zuluaga, Victor & Labarta, Ricardo & Läderach, Peter, 2015. "Climate Change Adaptation: The case of the Coffee Sector in Nicaragua," 2015 AAEA & WAEA Joint Annual Meeting, July 26-28, San Francisco, California 205875, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
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    10. Alejandro Caparrós & Richard E. Just & David Zilberman, 2015. "Dynamic Relative Standards versus Emission Taxes in a Putty-Clay Model," Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, University of Chicago Press, vol. 2(2), pages 277-308.
    11. Chen, Zhangliang & Dall'Erba, Sandy, 2018. "Do crop insurance programs preclude their recipients from adapting to new climate conditions?," 2018 Annual Meeting, August 5-7, Washington, D.C. 274398, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    12. Bangalore, Mook & Hochman, Gal & Zilberman, David, 2016. "Policy incentives and adoption of agricultural anaerobic digestion: A survey of Europe and the United States," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 559-571.
    13. Li, Haoyang & Zhao, Jinhua, 2018. "What Drives (No) Adoption of New Irrigation Technologies: A Structural Dynamic Estimation Approach," 2018 Annual Meeting, August 5-7, Washington, D.C. 274474, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
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    15. Zilberman, David & Kaplan, Scott, 2014. "What the Adoption Literature can teach us about Social Media and Network Effects on Food Choices," 2014 AAEA/EAAE/CAES Joint Symposium: Social Networks, Social Media and the Economics of Food, May 29-30, 2014, Montreal, Canada 173076, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    16. Tesfay, M., 2018. "Adoption of diversified farm technology in a semi arid of northern Ethiopia: A Panel Data Analysis," 2018 Conference, July 28-August 2, 2018, Vancouver, British Columbia 276008, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    17. Arlette S. Saint Ville & Gordon M. Hickey & Uli Locher & Leroy E. Phillip, 2016. "Exploring the role of social capital in influencing knowledge flows and innovation in smallholder farming communities in the Caribbean," Food Security: The Science, Sociology and Economics of Food Production and Access to Food, Springer;The International Society for Plant Pathology, vol. 8(3), pages 535-549, June.
    18. Li, Haoyang & Zhao, Jinhua, 2016. "Rebound Effect of Irrigation Technologies? The Role of Water Rights," 2016 Annual Meeting, July 31-August 2, Boston, Massachusetts 235966, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
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    20. Taylor, Rebecca & Zilberman, David, 2015. "The Diffusion of Process Innovation: The Case of Drip Irrigation in California," 2015 AAEA & WAEA Joint Annual Meeting, July 26-28, San Francisco, California 205320, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    21. Jinxia Wang & Henning Bjornlund & K. K. Klein & Lijuan Zhang & Wencui Zhang, 2016. "Factors that Influence the Rate and Intensity of Adoption of Improved Irrigation Technologies in Alberta, Canada," Water Economics and Policy (WEP), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 2(03), pages 1-32, September.

    More about this item


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

    JEL classification:

    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • Q27 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Issues in International Trade
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • Q55 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Technological Innovation
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth


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