Choosing a decision-making framework to manage uncertainty in climate adaptation decision making: A Practitioner’s Handbook

Authors: Alan Randall , Tim Capon, Todd Sanderson, Danielle Merrett and Greg Hertzler
Year: 2012

This handbook is intended to help people choose a decision-making framework to manage the uncertainty inherent in climate change adaptation decision-making. The decision-making process is more about learning to live with uncertainty than seeking to reduce it. The 5 frameworks examined in this Handbook are: Cost Benefit Analysis, Investment Framework for Environmental Resources, Real Options for Adaptation Decisions, Resilience Analysis and Management, and Strategic Adaptive Management. The handbook provides a broad comparison of the 5 decision-making frameworks, identifies advantages and disadvantages of each approach, demonstrates how elements of cost-benefit analysis and adaptive management approaches will manage risk and uncertainty differently, and then provides instructions on how to implement and evaluate the frameworks. In order to choose the most suitable decision-making framework for their specific context or system, end users are instructed to consider three types of chance or sources of uncertainty: 1) outcomes are generated by a random process, 2) we do not understand the system that generates outcomes, 3) the system that generates outcomes is itself changing. In general, with simplified cost-benefit analysis approaches, an appropriate decision context is deciding between known solutions to known problems. However, the future may surprise practitioners with outcomes not known or considered, thus it is important to consider when the 2nd or 3rd types of chance might be at play.

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