Adaptation Decision Making METHODS

Submitted by Sabrina Lambat | published 5th Aug 2011 | last updated 15th Jun 2018

Climate adaptation is about making decisions. It is not our role to tell people what the outcome of climate change will be in 20 years as it is not knowable - there is too much uncertainty. However, we can say something about what should be changed when making a decision, because of climate change. There are many frameworks for making decisions and climate adaptation should fit into one of those frameworks. Nevertheless, to ignore the uncertainty around climate change is dangerous and misleading in terms of planning suitable and robust options.

This page aims to provide guidance on the best methods for decision screening, exploring many different decision making methods. That is not to advocate any one particular method and not to design a comprehensive decision making model. Our suggestion is to consider the conditions of applicability of the method as well as the relative advantages and disadvantage of each. Any decision process will also need to take into account the decision context which includes the stakeholder priorities, the existing data and gaps/uncertainties, the previous research steps and understanding their placement within adaptation decision cycle.

From our experience here a few approaches we have found useful. We would like to share and learn from each other, so please suggest to us more articles to add to the list (by contacting the authors).

Actor-network Mapping using Actor Network Theory (ANT) to map vulnerability 

Adaptation Metrics towards a socio-institutional analysis of adaptation competence

Agent-based modelling

Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP)  a type of multi-criteria assessment (MCA) technique for analyzing complex decisions.

Bayesian belief networks 

Bottom up synthesis approach integrating information on adaptation options from different sources

Checklists and inventories many existing wizards and guidelines are essentially checklists of things to think about, steps to follow or criteria to include in other evaluations

Cost Effectiveness Analysis compares alternative options for achieving similar outputs (or objectives). It is a relative measure, providing comparative information between choices. It has been widely used in environmental policy analysis, because it avoids monetary valuation of benefits, and instead quantifies benefits in physical terms.

Data envelope decision analysis with a focus on minimum and maximums in conditions and feasibility of responses

Elimination by aspects and rule based decision making: screening options through filters

Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping

Indicator Mapping

Iterative Risk Management (IRM) – also known as adaptive management - is an established approach that uses a monitoring, research, evaluation and learning process (cycle) to improve future management strategies. The approach is very flexible, and can be applied to projects or sector analysis. It is most relevant for medium-long-term where potential to learn and react.

Knowledge Elicitation Tools (KnETs) a method for fomally representing knowledge as decision rules

Multi-Criteria Analysis evaluation of alternatives according to multiple decision criteria, now widely used (recommended in NAPA guidelines).

Portfolio analysis highlights the trade-off between the returns on an investment and the riskiness of that investment. It measures risk by estimating the variance (standard deviation) of the portfolio return, thus a portfolio with a relatively high (low) variance is judged to have a higher (lower) risk. The information on returns and risks is used to identify a portfolio that most closely matches preferences.

Qualitative comparative analysis

Real Options Analysis is a decision support tool that can provide quantitative economic information on uncertainty and risk in cases where there is flexibility on the timing of investment decisions and some potential for learning. 

Robust decision-making : XLRM framework by Rand Corporation

Systems dynamics models investigating the dynamics of complex, non-linear systems

Socio-institutional network analysis

Uncertainty and Robustness ...

Voting and ranking exercises some simple approaches based on ranking options may well be useful