Processes that Induce or Constrain Innovation

The adoption of new technology is yet another area in which institutions, organizations, and networks have an important influence on decision making. New and improved technologies will be needed to meet the challenges of limiting climate change and adapting to its impacts (NRC, 2010a,c). However, the mere existence of a new technology with desirable properties is not sufficient to ensure its use. For example, individuals and organizations are currently far less energy efficient than is technologically feasible or economically optimal (Jaffe and Stavins, 1994; Weber, 2009). There are also many examples of differential use of or opposition to new technologies among individuals, communities, and even nations. Although adoption of and resistance to innovation, especially in new technologies, have been extensively studied (e.g., Stern et al., 2009), much of this research has been technology specific. A validated theoretical framework has not yet been developed for analyses of adoption issues related to new technologies to reduce GHG emissions or enhance resilience of particular systems, or of proposals to intentionally modify the climate system (see Chapter 15). One lesson from the existing literature is worth highlighting—the earlier in the process of technological development that social acceptance is considered, the more likely it is that technologies will be developed that will actually be used (Rosa and Clark, 1999). Another is that, beyond the character of the innovation itself, it is essential to understand the role of the decision and institutional environment in fostering or constraining its adoption (Lemos, 2008; Rayner et al., 2005). Many of these concepts and research needs also emerge from the next two themes in this chapter.

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