New publication: Challenges of climate change adaptation

Published on
November 8, 2016

Meeting report published on the Workshop Practical and Methodological Challenges of Climate Change Adaptation; Oslo, Norway, 25–26 April 2016

Meeting report summary

Considerable challenges continue to exist in the understanding of climate change, the associated impacts and the identification of potential adaptation options. Through the implementation of adaptation measures, the adaptive capacity of a system may increase and the sensitivity reduce, resulting in reduced vulnerability of society.
The adaptation process involves making decisions to reduce potential damages and taking advantage of new opportunities. However, the practitioners’ information needs are not always met by what is available to them and they often lack appropriate decision support tools to present information on a cost/loss level such that adaptation actions can be explicitly included in city and state budgets.

The Center for International Climate and Environmental Research – Oslo (CICERO) and the Norwegian Computing Center convened a workshop in Oslo, Norway bringing together practitioners and researchers to discuss the practical and methodological challenges of climate change adaptation. Climate scientists, environmental economists, statisticians, climate service providers and practitioners in various decision contexts, mainly at the city and state levels, attended the workshop, which was structured around three themes: adaptation, uncertainty and visualization.

The participants identified open access to easily available data as one of the main challenges of climate change adaptation. This holds, in particular, for economic and insurance data in addition to the more traditional climate data. Such data sharing requires collaboration between governments, local authorities, the private sector and public agencies. Compelling results from a pilot study showed how local insurance loss data obtained from the insurance industry can enable informed decision making at the municipality level for reducing vulnerability to the impacts of water-related natural hazards in cities.
Furthermore, the various data types need to be coupled in order to assess impacts, the cost of the impacts and adaptation options. This poses two challenges. Firstly, new modeling frameworks are needed that can model the uncertainty of climate, impacts and cost/benefits in a joint fashion. Secondly, the decision support tools must be able to deal with uncertainty. For this, decision support tools that combine real options analysis and a portfolio approach are a flexible and appealing alternative in that investment decisions can be combined, timing of investment can be flexible and uncertainty in the impacts of climate change is accounted for.

Visualization and presentation of information was intensely discussed throughout the workshop. The participants agreed that there is a need for visualization tools for decision-making and adaptation options that are user-specific and simple without disguising the underlying uncertainty. The practitioners expressed a strong preference for uncertainty information being presented in terms of risks and likelihoods. In general, communication of information should focus on storytelling where scientists interact with practitioners to co-produce stories. Good communication and a common understanding between all the involved actors are vital for obtaining and implementing a successful climate change adaptation strategy.