Global Warming and the American Economy

Global Warming and the American Economy

A Regional Assessment of Climate Change Impacts

New Horizons in Environmental Economics series

Edited by Robert Mendelsohn

The impact of climate change on seven regions of the United States is studied in this new and accessible collection. The study examines how the different regions of the United States may be affected by climate change. In particular, the study explores whether warming would be beneficial to the northern (colder) regions but harmful to the economies of the southern (warmer) regions.

Chapter 8: Adaptation

Robert Mendelsohn

Subjects: economics and finance, environmental economics, environment, climate change, environmental economics, environmental sociology


Robert Mendelsohn INTRODUCTION This chapter focuses on how individuals, firms, communities and governments respond to climate change. How they respond depends on the impact the change is likely to have and their resources, knowledge and organization. Adaptation is defined here as actions undertaken by individuals, firms and governments that either ameliorate the harmful effects of climate change or capitalize on the beneficial opportunities arising from climate change. Adaptation is, in other words, viewed as the human response to all the changes induced by climate change. Climate change can create important changes in ecosystems and geophysical processes, of course; and human systems can, in turn, respond directly to the climate change and to the changes in these natural systems. All of these changes must be captured in impact analyses to trace the link between the climate stimulus and all the consequences. We define adaptation solely in terms of the human response, not the natural system response to highlight these human reactions. Incorporating adaptation into impact modeling has been one of the major innovations of impact research over the last decade. Adaptation is an integral component of climate impact assessment (Fankhauser 1996, Yohe et al. 1996, Tol et al. 1998, Smit et al. 1999, Mendelsohn and Neumann 1999, Mendelsohn 2000, Pittock and Jones 2000). Just as it is important to understand how natural systems will change when climate changes, it is also important to understand how social systems will change. Farmers, coastal dwellers, homeowners, firms and government agencies will...

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