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Science based planning

Science-based planning

Conventional national level approaches to planning adaptation usually rely on expert technical advice and credible science from authoritative information providers, such as the Global Climate Models (GCMs), engineering and physical sciences. They often result in actions that reduce physical vulnerability and solutions are often technical- or engineering-based. Climate Risk Management utilises such knowledge to reduce the negative impacts of interventions but decisions are often taken in isolation from other knowledge sources and do not incorporate opportunities for review over time.

However, the uncertainty in climate modelling and forecasting, as well as the dynamic nature of socio-economic change, means that there is incomplete understanding of both the direct and indirect impacts of climate change. As a result, planning adaptation to climate change is a difficult and multi-dimensional task. Outputs from climate models (‘scenarios’) provide a framework of possible futures against which adaptation planners can test options and make decisions. Yet planners and policymakers have little assurance that targeted solutions to specific climate-related problems will prove adequate over different time spans.

Decision-making processes are therefore often centred on low regrets options, but the economics of investing in adaptation demands that they should also be cost-effective and efficient. But adaptation planning also needs to account for uncertainty and recognise potential tipping points for system change. Uncertainty cannot be a justification for inaction.

The ripple effect of impacts across sectors – health, telecommunications, forestry, insurance, and so on – demands coordination for both adaptation and low carbon planning both between and within sectors. Yet often the synergies are not recognised. For low carbon planning and emissions reduction it is critical that economic growth is decoupled from energy intensity. In order to generate the political will for such action it is also important that the multiple drivers and co-benefits of low carbon are recognised within different sectors of the state. Strategies are currently framed in the context of national goals, global agreements and scientific projections rather than by a drive to shift development pathways and capitalise on the co-benefits of low carbon for sustainable and pro-poor development.