CIRCE Foundation Paper - part 4

Submitted by Sabrina Lambat | published 13th Jul 2011 | last updated 17th Mar 2020
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Principles of Adaptation

Here are 10 general principles of adaptation distilled from our current thinking, as outlined above, that form the basis for developing and implementing processes to support adaptation in practice.

1. Adaptation is a process of social and institutional learning that recognises often competing stakeholder goals and processes and uses information at various levels and in many ways; rather than equating adaptation with a reduction in vulnerability as a scientific or technical forecast.

2. Adaptation strategies and actions should be robust against a wide variety of future conditions; rather than assuming we can predict future impacts and provide climate proofing measures. Think of climate change as a range of not-implausible futures for which current climate scenarios are an initial estimate. However, it is not possible to assign probabilities--the scenarios are plausible samples from an unknown population.

3. Adaptation is specific processes of stakeholder decision making, in specific contexts, related to specific threats and opportunities; rather than a unique process of climate change risk management or generic solutions that can be transplanted from other contexts.

4. We approach adaptation from the perspective of the use and value of information in making a decision; rather than risk assessment, scenario development and decision evaluation (such as multi-criteria analysis) as endpoints in their own right. The key is in using information to reduce the uncertainty surrounding a decision.

5. We seek to introduce information about vulnerability and climatic risks in ways that communicate robust conclusions and critical uncertainties that might influence a decision outcome; rather than leaving users to sift through the caveats and confidence ratings in scenarios and forecasts.

6. Effective adaptation equips people and institutions alike to cope with a wide range of contingencies. Learning is achieved through rolling re-assessments that account for changing conditions. Our aim is to integrate climate change and climate change adaptation in 'good enough' practice in risk management; rather than expecting decision makers to adopt new perspectives and analytical tools and to differentiate between decision making for current issues and long-term sustainable development.

7. Focus on screening adaptation options

8. The development of appropriate communication tools to encourage consensus among stakeholders on adaptation options requires shared information and participatory techniques focused on exploring synergies, conflicts and awareness raising around potential adaptation pathways.

9. There is a lot of uncertainty about future climate changes, but we do know enough to act.

10. Enduring partnerships, between experts and practitioners, multiple stakeholders and across scales, are essential for building adaptive capacity over the time scales required by climate change. Such partnerships rest on shared purpose, principles and vision, and fairness and trust in working together.

It is these principles that guide the process being developed within weADAPT to support adaptation. We expect that entry points and pathways through this process will vary between stakeholders and applications. This is illustrated by documenting prototypes of such adaptation processes for specific countries, as explained below.