Adaptation Decision Making

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Adaptation decision-making can be informed by various tools, methods and approaches. These include participatory as well as expert-based approaches. The use of a (computerised) decision support system (DSS) is a means for a policy analyst or planner to compare different possible interventions, although the actual model and many of its parameters/data sets may not necessarily be accessible. Adaptation takes place at different levels (for example local vs. wider-scales) and decision-making may also be situated in different spheres (for example private vs. public adaptation) and typically involves a range of actors.

An important principle is that there is no one method/approach/tool that suits all circumstances of adaptation decision-making. Adaptation methods, in other words, have conditions of applicability. This is often overlooked in practice. For most adaptation problems different knowledges may be valid as well as multiple worldviews and the preferences of stakeholders affected by the decision. The specification of the problem and the available 'inputs' to the decision process should inform the choice of method.

A second important principle is that there is much uncertainty in adaptation decision-making. This challenges the identification of good options and the creation of shared understanding about possible outcomes. For example, scientists seek to account for uncertainty in its different forms; local stakeholders/practitioners may well be aware of uncertainty, they are nevertheless urged by decisions that need to be taken. See this introductory page on the problem of uncertainty in the context of adaptation decision-making. Broad solutions proposed are "no regrets"/staging options that leave open other options, when more information and capacity is available (and uncertainty is reduced). Second, there is a realisation that climate 'knowledge brokers' can play an important bridging role (see below).

Adaptation Decision Making is one of the largest themes on weADAPT and the pages contain a wealth of information on various sub-themes and cross-cutting issues. Closely related weADAPT themes are Using Climate Information and Transforming Governance.

Climate information should be principally viewed from a decision-making perspective. Linking the priorities of the users of this information into the research design and ensuring compatibility of the 'products' of climate science with their decision-making processes is therefore of key importance. There needs to be sufficient guidance at all levels and all stages of decision-making. On the one hand, this can increasingly be observed in availability of online information and new ICTs provided by climate 'knowledge brokers' and through various collaborations. On the other hand, decision-making is as much driven by political priorities as scientific ones. Climate scientists need to engage with decision-makers and find innovative ways to become stakeholders in the decision-makers processes.

Transformative climate adaptation aims for institutions and people working together to achieve improved livelihoods and environmental sustainability. The theme explores how social and institutional learning can best be supported, and it contains a depth of content on inclusive approaches for decision-making, potential stakeholder engagement tools, and understanding planning/policy processes. In doing so, and drawing lessons from many case examples, it addresses questions such as: What types of decision-making processes are required to foster democratic processes of transformation, and what is the role of science in such processes? 


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Ann Obae

Programme Officer, Environment
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Lucas Somavilla

Doctoral Researcher in Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy, UCL at UCL
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Anthea Stephens

Climate Resilience Component Lead, Cities Support Programme
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Joe Lufkin

Trustee at APAP
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Brady Mattsson

Postdoctoral Research Associate
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Douglas Brown

Consultant and Director, Foundations of Stewardship Consulting, Inc. at Independent Consultant
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Thakur Prasad Pandit

Theme Lead - Public Health and WASH, for National Adaptation Plan Formulation Process in Nepal
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Lili Ilieva

Thematic leader on resilience and sustainable livelihoods
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Lacey Willmott

PhD Candidate, Consultant, Inter-disciplinary Development Practitioner at University of Waterloo
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Tom van der Voorn

Researcher at USF


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