Climatic Change

, Volume 122, Issue 4, pp 665–679 | Cite as

Modeling adaptation as a flow and stock decision with mitigation

  • Tyler FelgenhauerEmail author
  • Mort Webster


An effective policy response to climate change will include, among other things, investments in lowering greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation), as well as short-term temporary (flow) and long-lived capital-intensive (stock) adaptation to climate change. A critical near-term question is how investments in reducing climate damages should be allocated across these elements of a climate policy portfolio, especially in the face of uncertainty in both future climate damages and also the effectiveness of yet-untested adaptation efforts. We build on recent efforts in DICE-based integrated assessment modeling approaches that include two types of adaptation—short-lived flow spending and long-lived depreciable adaptation stock investments—along with mitigation, and we identify and explore the uncertainties that impact the relative proportions of policies within a response portfolio. We demonstrate that the relative ratio of flow adaptation, stock adaptation, and mitigation depend critically on interactions among: 1) the relative effectiveness in the baseline of stock versus flow adaptation, 2) the degree of substitutability between stock and flow adaptation types, and 3) whether there exist physical limits on the amount of damages that can be reduced by flow-type adaptation investments. The results indicate where more empirical research on adaptation could focus to best inform near-term policy decisions, and provide a first step towards considering near-term policies that are flexible in the face of uncertainty.


Climate Policy Total Adaptation Climate Damage Adaptation Service Flow Adaptation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors would like to thank Tim Johnson, Richard Andrews, Doug Crawford-Brown, Jonathan Wiener, Gary Yohe, Shardul Agrawala, Rob Dellink, and Kelly de Bruin, in addition to three anonymous reviewers, for comments on earlier versions of this paper. Tyler Felgenhauer gratefully acknowledges financial research support from the Joseph L. Fisher Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship from Resources for the Future, as well as the Royster Society of Fellows at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


This research was conducted while Tyler Felgenhauer was a doctoral student in the Department of Public Policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Supplementary material

10584_2013_1016_MOESM1_ESM.docx (174 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 174 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht (outside the USA) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Energy and Climate Assessment Team, Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and DevelopmentResearch Triangle ParkUSA
  2. 2.Engineering Systems DivisionMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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