DOI: 10.1111/gec3.12731 ISSN: 1749-8198

Accumulation by adaptation

Kimberley Anh Thomas
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Computers in Earth Sciences
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • General Social Sciences
  • Water Science and Technology


Accumulation by adaptation names the phenomenon by which political and economic elites profit from climate adaptation efforts. As with the notion of ‘accumulation by dispossession’ from which it derives, the term speaks to the injustice of capital accumulation—in this case, accumulation associated with configuring some groups' vulnerability to climate change as business opportunities. However, unlike accumulation by dispossession, the mechanisms by which accumulation by adaptation proceeds have not been adequately conceptualized. This review synthesizes critiques of Marx's formulation of primitive accumulation, recent scholarship on colonial racial capitalism, and critical adaptation studies to locate how capital circulates through and reproduces the violence of climate change.

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