This article reviews the economic and analytical challenges of adaptation to climate change. Adaptation to climate risks that can no longer be avoided is an important aspect of the global response to climate change. Humans have always adapted to changing climatic conditions, and there is growing, if still patchy, evidence of widespread adaptation behavior. However, adaptation is not autonomous as sometimes claimed. It requires knowledge, planning, coordination, and foresight. There are important knowledge gaps, behavioral barriers, and market failures that hold back effective adaptation and require policy intervention. We identify the most urgent adaptation priorities, including areas where delay might lock in future vulnerability, and outline the decision-making challenges of adapting to an unknown future climate. We also highlight the strong interlinkages between adaptation and economic development, pointing out that decisions on industrial strategy, urban planning, and infrastructure investment all have a strong bearing on future vulnerability to climate change. We review the implications of these links for adaptation finance and what the literature tells us about the balance between adaptation and mitigation.


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