Making decisions under the risks and uncertainties of future climates

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

This study reviewed a number of decision tools for their potential in helping end users to address decision problems where climate is a relevant consideration. End users engaged in this study showed that they are interested in structuring their thinking using decision aids and tools which are embodied in decision frameworks. Good information on climate futures is not essential for many of the decisions facing end-users, but for decisions with long-term consequences, climate futures do really matter. Useful decision tools included: traditional Cost Benefit Analysis, Investment Framework for Environmental Resources, Real Options for Risky Decisions, Resilience Adaptive Planning, and Strategic Adaptive Planning. While the tools based on an adaptive management framework were better able to handle uncertainties in costs and benefits, and stakeholder desires, cost-benefit analysis frameworks were better used when the available time to make a commitment to action was uncertain. The study also found that rather than asking for less uncertainty in climate projections, end users do not expect climate science to eliminate uncertainty, but are asking for climate science information to focus on impacts on the inherently uncertain human and natural systems they are tasked with managing. Findings such as this were used to develop a Practitioner’s Handbook for Making Decisions under Climate Uncertainty, and an accompanying Web-Based Decision Support Tool.

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