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Economics, institutions and adaptation to climate change


  • Oberlack, Christoph
  • Neumärker, Bernhard


Adaptation to the consequences of climate change has attracted increasing interest as a necessary complement to greenhouse gas mitigation. Economic approaches to climate adaptation are rarely articulated and discussed explicitly despite many benefits of such a framework-level discourse. Therefore, this article investigates how climate adaptation is framed and approached in economics and attempts to contribute to the development of economic frameworks of climate adaptation. First, the paper identifies and critically reviews four major strands of current adaptation economics: estimation of adaptation benefits and costs, strategies for adaptation, the role of markets and governments, and policy instruments for adaptation. While having their merits, serious methodical difficulties prevail. Moreover, the applied neoclassical framing seems too narrow to capture the plethora of governance challenges and normative criteria revealed in adaptation policy discourses and in the multidisciplinary adaptation literature. The second part of this article outlines an institutional economics approach to climate adaptation that addresses caveats in the current state-of-the-art and offers additional concepts to study climate adaptation. Moreover, promising methods and strategies for adaptation research are presented and future research directions suggested. Finally, the paper assesses the normative foundations of climate adaptation economics and their implications for positive adaptation research.

Suggested Citation

  • Oberlack, Christoph & Neumärker, Bernhard, 2011. "Economics, institutions and adaptation to climate change," The Constitutional Economics Network Working Papers 04-2011, University of Freiburg, Department of Economic Policy and Constitutional Economic Theory.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:cenwps:042011

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Brian Feld & Sebastian Galiani, 2015. "Climate change in Latin America and the Caribbean: policy options and research priorities," Latin American Economic Review, Springer;Centro de Investigaciòn y Docencia Económica (CIDE), vol. 24(1), pages 1-39, December.

    More about this item


    Economics of Climate Change Adaptation; Institutional Economics; Governance of Climate Adaptation; Adaptive Capacity; Barriers; Normative Economics;

    JEL classification:

    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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