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Indicators for Social and Economic Coping Capacity – Moving Toward at Working Definition of Adaptive Capacity


  • Gary W. Yohe
  • Richard S.J. Tol

    () (Economic and Social Research Institute, Dublin)


This paper offers a practically motivated method for evaluating systems’ abilities to handle external stress. The method is designed to assess the potential contributions of various adaptation options to improving systems’ coping capacities by focusing attention directly on the underlying determinants of adaptive capacity. The method should be sufficiently flexible to accommodate diverse applications whose contexts are location specific and path dependent without imposing the straightjacket constraints of a “one size fits all” cookbook approach. Nonetheless, the method should produce unitless indicators that can be employed to judge the relative vulnerabilities of diverse systems to multiple stresses and to their potential interactions. An artificial application is employed to describe the development of the method and to illustrate how it might be applied. Some empirical evidence is offered to underscore the significance of the determinants of adaptive capacity in determining vulnerability; these are the determinants upon which the method is constructed. The method is, finally, applied directly to expert judgements of six different adaptations that could reduce vulnerability in the Netherlands to increased flooding along the Rhine River.

Suggested Citation

  • Gary W. Yohe & Richard S.J. Tol, 2001. "Indicators for Social and Economic Coping Capacity – Moving Toward at Working Definition of Adaptive Capacity," Working Papers FNU-8, Research unit Sustainability and Global Change, Hamburg University, revised Jun 2001.
  • Handle: RePEc:sgc:wpaper:8

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Barry Smit & Ian Burton & Richard Klein & J. Wandel, 2000. "An Anatomy of Adaptation to Climate Change and Variability," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 45(1), pages 223-251, April.
    2. B. Smit & I. Burton & R.J.T. Klein & R. Street, 1999. "The Science of Adaptation: A Framework for Assessment," Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Springer, vol. 4(3), pages 199-213, September.
    3. Thomas Downing & Lasse Ringius & Mike Hulme & Dominic Waughray, 1997. "Adapting to climate change in Africa," Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Springer, vol. 2(1), pages 19-44, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Richard S.J. Tol & Gary W. Yohe, 2006. "The Weakest Link Hypothesis For Adaptive Capacity: An Empirical Test," Wesleyan Economics Working Papers 2006-005, Wesleyan University, Department of Economics.
    2. P. Michael Link, 2003. "Auswirkungen populationsdynamischer Veränderungen in Fischbeständen auf die Fischereiwirtschaft in der Barentssee," Working Papers FNU-29, Research unit Sustainability and Global Change, Hamburg University, revised May 2003.
    3. Eakin, Hallie, 2005. "Institutional change, climate risk, and rural vulnerability: Cases from Central Mexico," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 33(11), pages 1923-1938, November.
    4. Acs, Zoltan J. & Estrin, Saul & Mickiewicz, Tomasz & Szerb, László, 2014. "The Continued Search for the Solow Residual: The Role of National Entrepreneurial Ecosystem," IZA Discussion Papers 8652, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Senem Kozaman, 2014. "Assessing Vulnerability to Social and Environmental Changes in West Aegean Coastal Side of Turkey," ERSA conference papers ersa14p1668, European Regional Science Association.
    6. Zoltán J. Ács & Erkko Autio & László Szerb, 2015. "National Systems of Entrepreneurship: Measurement issues and policy implications," Chapters,in: Global Entrepreneurship, Institutions and Incentives, chapter 28, pages 523-541 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    7. Dritan Osmani, "undated". "A note on optimal transfer schemes, stable coalition for environmental protection and joint maximization assumption," Working Papers FNU-176, Research unit Sustainability and Global Change, Hamburg University.
    8. Richard S. J. Tol, 2009. "The Economic Effects of Climate Change," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(2), pages 29-51, Spring.

    More about this item


    adaptive capacity; climate change;

    JEL classification:

    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming


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