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Methodology for Effective Decision-making on Impacts and AdaptaTION (MEDIATION)

Final Report Summary - MEDIATION (Methodology for Effective Decision-making on Impacts and AdaptaTION (MEDIATION))

Executive Summary:

Methodology for Effective Decision-making on Impacts and Adaptation. MEDIATION.

The Challenge/Problem

The EU and its member states, cities and local communities acknowledge the importance of climate change for safety and wellbeing and started to develop strategies to increase their resilience or protect their territory. Development of useable knowledge on how to adapt, however, has been lagging. The emphasis of scientific inquiry has been on deriving potential regional impacts from downscaled global climate projections, not on providing practical tools for designing response actions. The knowledge base supporting adaptation is still fragmented and incomplete. Easily accessible and policy-relevant information, including methods and tools, to support the dynamic adaptation policy development, is largely missing.

The Project Objectives

MEDIATION aims to provide a coherent framework for systematically identifying available methods and tools that can be meaningfully applied to address specific adaptation and vulnerability questions and support adaptation action. This is required to address the currently fragmented knowledge base supporting climate change adaptation decision-making in Europe, in particular in the area of methods and tools. To achieve this, firstly the knowledge requirements associated with the on-going impact assessment and adaptation policy developments in Europe had to be mapped for various decision domains, in consultation with the appropriate decision-makers and stakeholders. Secondly, existing methods, tools and metrics had to be reviewed, linked and - where needed and feasible - improved or developed. A final objective was to make the framework and associated toolbox available and disseminate the project results.

The Methodology

To do justice to the diverse and dynamic nature of adaptation challenges in Europe, the MEDIATION framework was developed mainly on the basis of a varied set of case studies reflecting different regions, climatic risks, and institutional contexts. The case studies were complemented by input from other projects such as CLIMSAVE, and the literature. “Method teams” analysed the policy context and methods used in the case studies at a meta level and, in a number of consecutive steps with the “case study teams”, developed the targeted overarching methodology in an iterative manner, called the MEDIATION Diagnostic Adaptation Framework. Stakeholder interactions played an important though variable role in all case studies, attempting to align the scientific work as much as possible with real-world policy processes. The resulting interlinked framework encompasses generic methodologies, natural-science based models, socio-economic evaluation methods, and social and institutional analytical concepts. The framework was tested both within the project team and with external users.

The Results

Rather than suggesting a one-size-fits-all solution, MEDIATION acknowledges that adaptation questions are diverse as they are determined by their regional and sectoral context. A diagnostic framework for problem-oriented adaptation research was developed that organizes adaptation questions into a logical structure, linking them to suitable methods and tools. The framework was used as the conceptual framework for UNEP PROVIA’s Guidance for the Assessment of Impacts, Vulnerability and Adaptation. it is made available via an interactive platform, which includes the Adaptation Pathfinder that enables users to find the most appropriate methods and tools for their adaptation questions; the MEDIATION Toolbox that provides detailed information about some 40 methods and tools with conditions for their applicability; and the Case study search tool. The platform is intended to be used by experts with basic technical or scientific knowledge and skills, who engage in policy advise, policy analysis, or other research aiming at supporting climate change adaptation decision making.

Project Context and Objectives:


Europe has played a frontrunner role in both climate change science and policy development but it has been relatively slow to focus on adaptation within its own borders. IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC 2007) has reaffirmed the seriousness of climate change and its human signature. The emphasis in climate change science as well as in policy since the 1980s has been on the debate about the reality of climate change, the attribution to anthropogenic activities, the potential impacts in a generic sense, and the possibilities to mitigate these impacts by reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases or increasing their sinks. Nevertheless, even effective internationally coordinated mitigation would still not avoid some climate change and associated impacts, and adaptation would also be required to cope with the residual climatic changes still remaining after mitigation. However, for a variety of reasons, until very recently in the policy arena the general emphasis remained on mitigation as the primary response. Because the developing world was identified as the most vulnerable, the emphasis of the scientific and political debate about impacts and vulnerability initially focused on those regions. This in spite of abundant evidence from impact assessments conducted from the 1980s onwards, which have consistently indicated that adverse impacts of climate change should be expected in different parts of Europe (e.g. (Parry and Carter 1989); (Rotmans, Hulme et al. 1994); Beneston et al, 1998; Alcamo et al., 2007, EEA, 2008). Only when the impacts have started to be felt (e.g. with Arctic sea ice and mountain glaciers melting, permafrost thawing, frequent heat waves, floods, storm damage) has adaptation really moved up the political agenda.

Fragmented information in a rapidly evolving policy context.

In the early 1990s, individual EU member countries started to perform national impact assessments in support of the development of national adaptation strategies. Only from 2005, many EU member states started to develop national adaptation strategies (Biesbroek, Swart et al. 2010). These strategies and plans are built on scientific information available from national and international research, including EU Research and INTERREG projects, such as ACACIA, ADAM AMICA , ALARM, ATEAM, BRANCH, cCASHh ,CLIVARA, COMCOAST, DINAS-COAST, ESCAPE, ENSEMBLES, ESPACE , ExternE , MICE, NEEDS, PRUDENCE, PESETA and STARDEX. In the course of the project, FP7 projects such as ISENES, ECLISE, CLIMRUN, the new Copericus programme (formerly GMES) and other initiatives such as Climate-ADAPT have made further steps towards the development of climate services in Europe, but their output is still not transparently coordinated from a national or European point of view, even at the end of the MEDIATION project. Data concerning climate change projections, regional vulnerability assessments and adaptation practices are still scattered and not readily accessible to stakeholders. The information base is as yet fragmented and incomplete, not only because of a relatively long focus of scientific research on climate system science and on mitigation, but also because of widely different levels of resources available for local and regional climate impacts, vulnerability and adaptation research across Europe. Easily accessible and policy-relevant information, including data, methods and other tools, is urgently needed to support the present dynamic adaptation policy development.

Policy-relevance: matching, capacity, uncertainties.

The available information is not only scattered, it is also not always of direct relevance to policy makers for several reasons. Effective adaptation planning depends on being able to match the information and tools that scientists offer to the needs and capacities of stakeholders (e.g. Patt et al., 2008). It is essential to match information not only to the temporal and spatial extent of decision-making and policy-making, but also to the legal requirements that often dictate what forms of analysis are appropriate in particular contexts. Furthermore, stakeholders and public institutions often have inappropriate or insufficient capacity to analyse and interpret climate impact and vulnerability analyses effectively (e.g. see Hochrainer and Mechler, 2008). This often results in a widely varying awareness of climate change and large discrepancies in the capacity to undertake well-informed risk assessment (cf. e.g. Eisenack et al 2007). While there is some confidence in the direction and range of large-scale, long-term trends in regional climate, the details of these changes (especially for the next few decades) remain inherently unpredictable, due to the complexity of the climate system. Moreover, the long-term trends are themselves contingent on political decisions taken now regarding emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols. An inherent and to some extent irresolvable uncertainty is therefore associated with each climate projection. In this light, stakeholders may unproductively understand uncertainty as a scientific disagreement that may be resolved in the future. On the other hand, decision-makers are accustomed to managing risks amidst large uncertainty.

Multilevel character.

Adaptation measures will be required at all levels of governance, notably at local, regional, national and EU levels as well as sectoral levels, and hence are very much context specific. This requires tailored information about possible risks, the associated uncertainties, and costs and benefits of adaptation measures. At the global level, the UNFCCC Nairobi Plan of Work includes a number of components relevant for this project, notably methods and tools, but also climate modelling, scenarios and downscaling, climate related risks and extreme events, socio-economic information, and adaptation planning and practices. Similar needs are highlighted by the Council of Europe (Kropp 2008). At the EU level, the European Strategy ((EC 2013)) still identifies 4 key knowledge gaps: (a) information on damage and adaptation costs and benefits; (b) regional and local-level analyses and risk assessments; (c) frameworks, models and tools to support decision-making and to assess how effective the various adaptation measures are; and (d) means of monitoring and evaluating past adaptation efforts. MEDIATION does not fill all these gaps, but does provide access to methods and tools that address them.

The MEDIATION Challenge

The following contextual challenges were identified:

1. Address the uneven distribution of knowledge and policy action. Knowledge about climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation in Europe is as yet relatively limited, because of the relatively late attention to the problem. Because different countries have different resources for research and different political priorities, knowledge is also unevenly distributed over EU member states. However, in most countries adaptation policy is currently being developed very quickly. It is desirable that this dynamic process is supported by the best possible scientific information in a flexible way.
2. Recognize the need for tailor-made and diverse information. In contrast to mitigation, where to some extent available measures are generic across countries, adaptation measures are more dependent on local circumstances and evaluation methods would have to be developed and applied accordingly. Impacts, vulnerability and adaptation assessments should address all relevant spatial levels, from global, to European, to national, regional and local. Different European regions have very different characteristics in terms of expected climatic changes, vulnerabilities and possibilities for adaptation. Also different stakeholders in different sectors and regions will have different perspectives and will define and interpret issues like “impacts”, “vulnerability” and “adaptation” in different ways. Earlier research (Cash et al., 2006) has suggested that imposing one common framework is likely to fail. This need for tailor-made information, taking into account a wide diversity of perspectives, provides a major challenge.
3. Organize interdisciplinarity and timeliness. The pertinent science and policy questions not only relate to the physical, biological or chemical aspects of projected climate change, but also to the social, institutional, cultural and economic aspects of vulnerability and response capacity. This requires an interdisciplinary approach. In the area of impacts, vulnerability and adaptation research the emphasis until recently has been on information from the natural sciences. However, the evaluation of vulnerability and adaptation options requires an increased emphasis on knowledge from the social sciences, including economics. The present rapid developments in adaptation policy development also imply that in order to provide adequate and timely scientific input, science may also have to provide intermediate or preliminary results of ongoing research, taking into account and communicating the important uncertainties.

The approach and objectives

A common platform for sharing a diverse set of methods and tools for assessing climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation is required to help reduce Europe’s vulnerability to climate change. The primary objective of the MEDIATION project is to develop such a platform and an integrated methodology to support adaptation policy development at different levels in Europe, using the results of national, EU and international research programmes. Key terms in this area are sometimes used differently. In this project, the relationship between climate change, impacts, vulnerability and adaptation follows the definitions by the IPCC as schematised by the EEA (Figure 2.1). Elements of the exposure (of units or systems to climatic change effects), sensitivity (of exposed units or systems to particular climatic change effects) and adaptive capacity (the ability to cope with climate change effects) have to be included in comprehensive assessments of impacts, vulnerability and adaptation options and thus in the common platform and integrated methodology. The project acknowledges and discusses other definitions in its output.

figure 2.1: Conceptual framework for impacts, vulnerability and adaptation analysis (source: EEA, 2008)


The main objectives of the project are the following:

A. Defining the policy needs: to assess the knowledge requirements associated with the on-going impact assessment and adaptation policy developments in Europe in various decision domains, in consultation with the appropriate decision-makers and stakeholders;
B. Reviewing, linking and improving or developing appropriate methods, tools and metrics: to identify, consolidate, complement, apply and test available methods and tools for analysing and assessing impacts, vulnerability and adaptation options, including but not limited to cost-effectiveness criteria, focusing on a selected number of case studies;
C. Developing an overarching integrated methodology: to integrate available knowledge from previous national and international programmes and projects into an integrated methodology (or framework) to analyse and assess impacts, vulnerability and adaptation options;
D. Making a tool box available and disseminating the project results: to make the methods and the knowledge available through a designated common platform, designed to last beyond the project’s lifetime, flexibly incorporating new knowledge, and disseminating the project results in Europe.

Meeting the objectives

The rapid development of impacts, vulnerability and adaptation research and policy required the project to be designed in a flexible way, building on on-going research activities, but also allowing for new scientific knowledge and policy priorities to be taken into account to the extent possible during the course of the project and afterwards.

Geographic and sectoral scope. The main focus of the project is on the EU-27. A number of cases is proposed, recognising that assessment of impacts, vulnerability and adaptation options is context- and thus region- and sector-specific. Neighbouring countries to the EU, such as those in eastern Europe were not excluded at the start of the project, but since in project discussions the Commission gave low priority to these regions, only one case was explored (agriculture in Serbia) to reflect an adaptation situation with a different level of knowledge and another institutional context compared to EU member states. The project focused on the development of an integrated methodology, and this was built upon the different regional knowledge requirements and tested at the regional level in a number of case studies. Although no specific attention was given to developing countries, the adoption of the MEDIATION framework by UNEP PROVIA for its Guidelines on Assessment for Impacts, Vulnerability and Adaptation (conceived as a revision of the 1997 IPCC guidelines) suggests that the basic concepts are more widely applicable.

Actor focus and involvement. The dynamic nature of scientific research and policy development in the field of climate change requires, to the extent possible, a participatory approach by representatives of both. The main intended users of the assessment methods, as they are made available through the MEDIATION platform, are mainly experts involved in scientific, socio-economic and technical research and policy advice in the area of climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation, rather than policy or decision makers themselves. As the information required is context specific, in order for it to be relevant, proper representation is needed from target groups in the different sectors and regions under study. The various project components provide more detailed descriptions on how to achieve an optimal stakeholder involvement.

Methods, tools, metrics and uncertainty management. MEDIATION reviewed existing methods and tools, linked them to policy needs, improved them if needed and feasible, and made them accessible to users through the MEDIATION platform. In the course of the project metrics (here understood to be indicators that can be used for international comparison of impacts, vulnerability and the cost-effectiveness of adaptation options) were considered to depend on the context-specific application of particular method and tools, making it hard, or even not meaningful, to generalize them.

Selection of cases. Climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation assessment has a multitude of dimensions according to which cases can be selected and developed. These include:

• Sector: (water management, coastal zone management, health, urban development, agriculture, biodiversity, infrastructure);
• Region: different regions in Europe have very different vulnerabilities and policy priorities;
• Administrative or geographic scale: from global to European to national to local;
• Decision domain: (governance, economics, land-use management, project design).

MEDIATION combined several of these dimensions into a pragmatic set of 11 case studies. Each of these cases has a different focus in terms of the main vulnerable sector and decision domain. They were developed for four distinct regions of Europe (similar to Green Paper consultation regions) as well as the EU as a whole. Figure 2.2 shows the location of case study areas and short case descriptions are included in the annex (some as part of the brochure and some as separate text blocks). The following case study researches were conducted:

1. Forest fires in Europe A burning issue?– Forestry, Europe.
2. Museums – The last habitat for grassland biodiversity? – Biodiversity and ecosystems, Finland
3. Nordic seniors – Old, wise and experienced, but can they stand the heat? – Health, Nordic region
4. Agriculture v. nature, battle for scarce water resources – Water resources in the Guadalquivir basin, Spain
5. More with less? Quenching the thirst of Spanish farmland – Agriculture and livestock Guadiana basin, Spain
6. Sorry, no more wine! – Agriculture and livestock – Tuscany, Italy
7. Tuscan people are hot! – Health, Tuscany, Italy
8. The Waddensea – Sea level rise, drowning mudflats, fisheries and adaptation turning points – Water resources in the Waddensea, the Netherlands
9. Sweating salmon and stranded ships – Water resources in the Rhine basin, the Netherlands, Germany, France
10. EU-wide flooding risks under a changing climate – Water safety (flooding), Europe
11. Food for farmers’ thoughts – Agriculture, Serbia

Some of these cases resulted to be infeasible, due to reasons of lack of stakeholder interest (7) or data availability to the project (11). Other cases were added as alternatives in the course of the project (3, 9).


• Alcamo, J., J.M. Moreno, B. Nováky, M. Bindi, R. Corobov, R.J.N. Devoy, C. Giannakopoulos, E. Martin, J.E. Olesen, A. Shvidenko, 2007: Europe. In: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson, Eds., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 541-580.
• Beniston, M., R.S.J. Tol, R. Delcolle, G. Hörmann, A. Iglesias, J. Innes, A.J. McMichael, A.J.M. Martens, I. Nemesova, R.J. Nicholls, and F.L. Toth, 1998: Europe. In: The Regional Impacts of Climate Change: An Assessment of Vulnerability. Special Report of IPCC Working Group II ( Watson, R.T. M.C. Zinyowera, and R.H. Moss (eds.)). Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, pp. 149–185.
• Biesbroek, G. R., R. J. Swart, et al. (2010). "Europe adapts to climate change: Comparing National Adaptation Strategies." Global Environmental Change 20(3): 440-450.
• Cash, D., Bork, J., and Patt, A.G. 2006. Countering the loading-dock approach to linking science and decision making: comparative analysis of El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) forecasting systems. Science, Technology, & Human Values 31: 465 – 494
• EC (2013). An EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change. Brussels, European Commission.
• EEA (European Environment Agency (2008). Impacts of Europe’s changing climate – an Indicator-based report. EEA Report no. 4/2008
• Eisenack K, Tekken V, Kropp JP (2007): Stakeholders perception on climate change in the Baltics. Coastline Reports 8: 245-255
• Hochrainer, S. and R. Mechler (2008). Assessing financial and economic vulnerability to natural hazards: bridging the gap between scientific assessment and the implementation of disaster risk management with the CatSim model. Patt, A., Schröter, D., Klein, R., de la Vega-Leinert, A. (eds). Assessing Vulnerability to Global Environmental Change.Earthscan.
• IPCC (2007). Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. S. Solomon, D. Qin, Martin Manning et al. Cambridge, United Kingdom, New York, Cambridge University Press: 966.
• Parry, M. L. and T. R. Carter (1989). "An assessment of the effects of climatic change on agriculture." Climatic Change 15(1-2): 95-116.
• Rotmans, J., M. Hulme, et al. (1994). "Climate change implications for Europe: An application of the ESCAPE model." Global Environmental Change 4(2): 97-124.

Project Results:

Description of the main science and technology results and foregrounds

To appreciate the essence of MEDIATION’s results and foregrounds it is recommended to visit the MEDIATION platform: This platform presents the MEDIATION Pathfinder to adaptation methods and to the Toolbox in an iterative set-up. It also introduces approaches to and findings of the case studies (see also the annex).

This chapter presents results of the underlying research. MEDIATION scientific research was organized in five work packages which were implemented in parallel in a coordinated fashion, with dissemination and training, and management organized in a sixth and seventh work package (Figure 3.1):

Figure 3.1: Structure of the project in work packages

WP1 (chapter 1) analysed and produced descriptions of the various decision contexts analysed, WP2 and 3 (chapter 2) analysed and produced descriptions of the methods developed, and the case study teams produced descriptions of the cases conducted. Case study findings are presented in text blocks in the annex of this report. The framework development team (WP4, chapter 3) “meta-analysed” the case study descriptions, abstracted common methodological elements and introduced consistent labels for these (i.e. the conceptual framework). This approach to framework development was chosen in order to make sure that all work packages contribute to the overall framework. The role of WP4 can be seen as an editor of this process. While the “content” of the framework was produced by all partners in all work packages, it was assembled into one consistent whole by WP4.

The iterative, bottom-up/meta-analytical and formal approach was based on previous experiences in transdisciplinary research (Hinkel 2008); (Ionescu, Klein et al. 2009), as well as theoretical pillars of iteration, grounded theory (Glaser and Strauss, 1967) and formalization (Suppes, 1968). Iteration solves the problem of timing and has been recognized as a crucial element that allows advantage to be taken of the mutual learning processes that occur during the course of transdisciplinary work (Klein, 1990). The guiding idea of grounded theory is to let relevant concepts emerge by carefully analyzing case studies rather than imposing them onto the cases from theory. Here, this approach ensures that the framework to be developed is “grounded” in a diversity of relevant case studies. Formalization is the process of making common form or structure explicit. It is appropriate here, because framework development is an analytically challenging task due to the great variety of (formal) methods applied such as models, indices, multi-criteria analysis, cost-effectiveness analysis and scenario analysis. A formal approach enables the methods to be related unambiguously, while highlighting their similarities and differences.

Figure 3.2: MEDIATION moved in steps from the initial scoping to the final integrated methodology through evolving descriptions of cases and methods; then it was made accessible through the MEDIATION platform and was actively disseminated through an outreach and training programme.

1. Analysing the knowledge demand from the decision-making context

This chapter explores the context for making adaptation decisions to reduce vulnerability/impacts and practical methods for choosing or screening adaptation. the context in which adaptation decisions are made is addressed.

1.1 Identification of adaptation policy needs and decision domains

Adaptation to climate change is a new challenge for existing institutions and decision-making processes. In order to assess what form this challenge takes for decision-makers, we conducted interviews and a policy review to determine the perceived policy needs in Austria, Finland, France, Italy, Poland, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom. In each country, interviews were conducted at the national level and the sub-national (state) level if the national level was not sufficiently active in adaptation planning yet. We focussed on general adaptation policy as well as specific sectors for each country, in line with the distribution of MEDIATION case studies. Different countries were at different stages of developing adaptation policy, but the underlying needs are similar across them (see table 3.1). We grouped the needs into nine categories, or decision domains:

1. inter-agency coordination,
2. multi-level governance,
3. mainstreaming,
4. awareness-raising,
5. coping with uncertainty,
6. research needs,
7. tools and information access,
8. financial and human resources,
9. political commitment.

We also looked at suggestions for the EU's role in coordinating adaptation policy. Coordination and communication stand out as key needs. Coordination, on the one hand, means inter-departmental and cross-sectoral coordination of activities. But it also means multi-level governance – coordinating effectively across scales. Both of these are still issues that need further work in all the countries surveyed. Dealing with uncertainty is another crucial need. It goes along with a need to improve access to information and tools. In that context, there is room for the development of methods to support stakeholders in their decisions. Awareness-raising in particular has emerged as a key first step, and experience from countries that are further along in adaptation planning suggests that initially, adaptation activities at the national government level may be useful particularly to build awareness in preparation of further policy steps, such as mainstreaming of adaptation. Awareness-raising also takes place in different spheres, however: the general public’s perception of the issue and information needs differ from those of professionals and civil servants. Representatives in all countries feel the need for more research. In early stages these needs are quite clear when concrete knowledge-gaps need filling, however, as countries progress, the nature of further research becomes less clear-cut. Learning more about the socio-economic context of adaptation measures was one specification for future research. The research showed that there is a great variety in adaptation policies in the member states. There is no obvious pattern explaining why some countries share particular needs or face different challenges. The EU may not have the capacity to cope with such variety and to harmonize national adaptation policies. It can nevertheless trigger action in countries where it is still missing. Interviews in the member countries suggest that it can particularly serve as a hub to exchange information and methods, such as good-practice (case study) examples - knowledge of what works in which context and what does not.

1.2 Review of Existing Impacts, Vulnerability and Adaptation Assessments

A number of European, national and regional studies were reviewed. The review first considered the objectives of these various assessments. This revealed a wide range of different objectives, which reflect evolving policy questions over time. The objectives of the studies also determine the type of information needed, the outputs, and the methods used. The review evaluated the studies against the climate assessment typology used by the IPCC AR4 WGII (Carter et al, 2007). This showed that the majority of national studies in Europe and OECD countries were built around scenario based ‘impact assessments’, i.e. scientific based assessments. Earlier impact assessments provided information to raise awareness on the potential impacts of climate change. More recent studies looked at the justification for mitigation and the assessment of economic costs of climate change. Recent studies have also started to consider climate model uncertainty. However, the focus of these national impact studies has not been on adaptation, which is generally presented as a description or list of (technical) responses. They are therefore of limited use for informing adaptation policy. There has also been some policy interest in ‘vulnerability assessment’ and vulnerability indicators, with a number of European studies. These have tended to focus on geographically mapped outputs to show distributional patterns. They often combine underlying elements to provide an overall index of vulnerability. Such approaches have been the subject of recent criticism, yet these outputs continue to be of interest to policy makers.

More recently, the policy focus has switched to adaptation, and there are examples of recent national studies which have adaptation as the main objective. There is also a recent focus to assess the economic costs (and benefits) of adaptation. However, the current European and national studies still do not adopt all the elements of the ‘adaptation assessment’ method described by Carter et al., which to date have only been demonstrated at the project level. Many of these adaptation assessment projects have a similar framing. They focus on the near term and have a strong policy element, recognizing the need to ground assessment in current sectoral policy. They consider adaptation as a process as well as an outcome, considering institutions and governance. They have a greater focus on building capacity, rather than just considering technical adaptation options. Most importantly, they adopt a framework of decision making under uncertainty and adaptive management. A number of current (on-going) national level assessments are starting to adopt these principles for national strategies. We also reviewed examples where national level assessments have been repeated over time. This allows a more thorough evaluation and reveals important information on how assessments and methods have changed over time. As well a move over time to adaptation orientated analysis, the review also shows a greater consideration of cross-sectoral and indirect effects in later cycles and a greater focus on policy relevant analysis. However, there are limited examples of continuous or ex post policy evaluation (lessons learned) in these repeated cycles, and this is highlighted as an area for additional work. Because the MEDIATION case studies did not cover the implementation and evaluation phases, the associated information on the MEDIATION platform was taken from literature related to the UNEP PROVIA guidance on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation, while this guidance for the earlier steps in the cycle (assessing vulnerability, identifying and appraising adaptation options) in turn builds on MEDIATION work.

1.3 Institutional networks and the flows of information used for making adaptation decisions.

MEDIATION analyzed the characteristics of networks using a socio-institutional network mapping (SNM) approach, looking at their use for adaptation planning, whether their topology can tell us anything about decision framing and uncertainty, and if there are any corresponding links to choices of tools. The capacity to adapt is a function of many factors, such as the structure of an industry and its network, the type of decisions taken within that industry, often dependent on the overall decision-framing of the actors involved and their approach to dealing with uncertainty, the adaptive capacity of organisations that take decisions within the sector, the timing of such decisions, and the specific laws and regulations that apply to decision-makers. The existence of both ‘bridging’ and ‘bonding’ ties is important and it is notable that just as networks evolve, the nature of the ties also vary and further, the ‘goals’ of actors can change over time. Network mapping exercises were conducted in the Spanish case studies. Information exchange can trigger changes in behaviour and eventually change in values and norms and the most beneficial network structure may be different at different stages of the adaptation cycle. It can also be an option to model network evolution using quantitative mapping software (e.g. ORA, UCINET, Pajek, etc), or to use agent-based simulation to model the various decision points and time horizons for decision-making of multiple actors, as well as to explore how individual decisions can have an impact at the macro level – the structural capacity of the network, and whether different scenarios have benefits or disadvantages at the individual level over time. Agent-based modelling would also allow the potential emergence of new actors to be a part of different scenarios. As discussed above, the network structure as it exists at present has implications for the effectiveness of decision-making because of the actors involved, which have different framings of uncertainty. Though actors can change as we move along the adaptation pathway, without the emergence of new actors, the goals of existing ones must become more aligned and integrated if adaptation is to be successful. It has been suggested that a successful management strategy (particularly, in governing natural resources) is one where actors, during periods of stability, develop new relational ties with various other actors and stakeholders which can be drawn upon in times of change (Olsson, Gunderson et al. 2006) and this resonates with the proposition that informal networks or ‘shadow spaces’ are especially useful in times of changes (Pelling et al. 2008).

1.4 Linear or event-driven policy development models and the implications for design of adaptation information platforms

A number of countries, as well as the European Union, are making strides to support the efforts of decision- and policy-makers, primarily local and national level bureaucrats but also elected leaders, having to plan and implement actions to adapt to climate change. In this section we pose the question of what these people’s most important problems or challenges are for which they need outside expert support and assistance. In particular, we draw a distinction between challenges associated with defining adaptation problems, identifying alternatives, and selecting among those alternatives, and challenges associated with implementing and evaluating the selected choice. To evaluate these challenges, a survey was implemented. The stakeholders with whom we communicated highlighted that the tasks of identifying a particular problem, identifying a set of potential solutions, and analyzing the options to identify the preferred choice are all challenges that they face. However, there are some preliminary indications that challenges associated with policy implementation may actually be greater. These results leave unresolved, to some extent, the question of whether a linear model of policy development, or the event-driven model proposed by Kingdon (1995) is to be applied. Although a preference for the event-driven is suggested by the results of our survey, the selection bias in the respondent sample likely means that this result is skewed and may not be representative. The survey sample size was too small to draw statistically significant results, and so cannot be interpreted as being more than suggestive. Likewise, neither the survey nor the open-ended interviews was likely to entirely rule out the possibility of either of the models. Further research could do so, with an empirical design focusing more clearly on the differences between the two models. However, it may simply be the case that the true adaptation process is more complicated, and more heterogeneous, than either model represents. In that case, both models may represent adaptation processes some of the time, and in some organizational settings, and the value of future research would be in better understanding that heterogeneity.

Two implications

Notwithstanding the possibility of future research generating additional useful insights in this direction, there are two clear implications of our results. First, there is value in designing information and decision-support platforms particularly around implementation challenges, and at the very least not neglecting implementation issues. Implementation issues are often of a very different character than issues associated with problem identification and generation and selection of policy options. The task of identifying the problem and analyzing appropriate response policies requires, in the case of adaptation, a good understanding of anticipated climate impacts and risks, both in physical and socio-economic terms. Appraisal of alternative options involves comparing the reduction in such risk levels across the different choices. Implementation, by contrast, typically does not depend on such information and skills. Rather, it raises a number of very different issues, often very specific to the actual choice involved. The issues associated with implementing a flood or crop insurance program, for example, are very different from those associated with an early warning system, which are in turn very different from those associated with a successful information campaign, such as one to encourage fluid intake and trips to airconditioned shopping malls during heat waves. The knowledge base on which implementation decisions need to draw is incredibly diverse, perhaps greater than one could host on a single platform.

The alternatives available for adaptation are far greater in number than the range of risks to which they respond, and indeed present a very heterogeneous set of information and skills requirements that is constantly growing larger. Any information or decision-support platform designed to meet the challenge of supporting implementation would have to be designed with constant expansion in mind. Since many of the policy alternatives are also appropriate solutions to problems other than climate change—insurance is a good example, or outreach campaigns to improve public health—an emphasis of any such platform would have to be on linking with existing information on policy implementation that is outside of the climate domain. The second key insight from our results is that it is not just information, but also skills, that decision-makers lack. This is consistent with Tribbia and Moser (2008), as well as a longer standing literature in the area of assessment and decision-support (Cash, Borck et al. 2006); (Patt, Bowles et al. 2006); (Cash, Clark et al. 2003), in suggesting that with respect to all decision-support, policy- and decision-makers are as in need of hands-on assistance, gained through well-defined personal relationships, as they are in need of raw information. A decision-support system will not be very effective if its primary activity is providing information alone, even if that information is highly relevant to issues of implementation. Rather, it needs to offer a framework within which policy-makers can establish personal relationships to those individuals who can guide them through the critical processes.

Implications for an information platform

Both insights have implications for the design of an information platform. It may make sense to organize such a platform around policy alternatives, rather than around particular climate risks such as droughts and floods. A decision-maker needing help with implementation would need to find the core analysis on the policy alternative, often prepared by the advocacy group that first proposed it, alongside practical advice on what is needed to turn that alternative into reality. Further links could be to colleagues who have already implemented the approach, and who are willing to be contacted with questions. Another way to organize such a platform would be not around information provision in the first place, but rather around skills training. One such model could be the system for agricultural extension, as it exists in many countries. This system has at its heart a network of experts who can organize training sessions, and even drive out to farms to provide direct assistance. These extension agents, meanwhile, can point decision-makers towards the sources of information that they need. This is very different from a model of decision-support that is located on a computer server somewhere in the world, with no easy access to a human voice or face.

Initially, we have taken it as a point of departure that the audience of a decision-support system, like the MEDIATION Platform, needs to be the public sector decision-makers themselves. Our results call this somewhat into question. Especially if the event-driven policy model is predominant in adaptation situations, then the support system would have more impact if it would be targeting policy analysts and advisors, policy entrepreneurs, or lobbyists rather than decision-makers themselves. In other words, the system ought to target the group of individuals that are actually in a position to make use of its information content and construct or promote policy alternatives based on it. But this is a highly dynamic group of people, and it is unclear whether a decision-support system would be of any use to them; they may have expertise that is greater, and rely on networks that are stronger, than anything a government led platform could offer. Further research could examine the flow of knowledge, and the needs, of this group of stakeholders.

2. Methods and tools for assessing impacts and vulnerabilities

This chapter presents methods and tools to assess climate change impacts and vulnerability. The methods and tools serve to assess current exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity to climatic variability and change in a given sector and region. They are also applied to assess future climate change, using scenarios and storylines to characterize future environmental and socio-economic developments. Existing methods and tools to assess the socio-economic aspects of climate change impacts, vulnerability, and particularly adaptation options were reviewed. To date, limited work has been done to assess the costs and benefits of climate change impacts and adaptation options. MEDIATION has also explored the different emerging frameworks for assessing and prioritising adaptation options to support policy development.

2.1 Approaches to climate change impact, adaptation and vulnerability assessment: towards a classification framework to support decision-making

This section takes up the challenge of devising an organisational framework for classifying CCIAV assessment methods to support decision-making for climate change adaptation. This comprises a simple checklist of attributes that would need to be considered in an assessment in order to fulfil a given purpose defined by the expected beneficiaries of the work. The purpose of the assessment determines the emphasis that is required; its dimensions influence the suitability of approaches, methods, tools and information to be deployed. The key elements of this framework are depicted schematically as a decision tree in Figure 3.3. Here, the purpose of an assessment largely determines its emphasis and hence the type of approach(es) most suitable for addressing the purpose. The pursuit of a particular approach will involve the deployment of one or more specific methods, and associated with each method could be a suite of tools, either models or procedures already available from earlier work, or developed as part of the assessment itself. Some tools are specific to a single method (e.g. specific impact indices); others may embrace multiple methods and approaches (e.g. decision support systems). Similarly, some methods are applicable to most types of approaches (e.g,. scenario development), whereas others are more closely tied to a single approach (e.g. vulnerability mapping). The framework has been developed as an electronic platform that enables the user to trace the linkages between a given tool and the method(s) and approach(es) it might be used to inform (moving from right to left in Figure 3.3). Conversely, it is also possible to determine the range of methods and associated tools that might be deployed in applying a given approach to address a given purpose or problem type (i.e. moving from left to right in the diagram).

2.1.1 Assessment type, purpose and target audience

The multiplicity of approaches, methods and tools available to CCIAV analysts points to the need for a way to shortlist the most promising candidates for a given assessment. It is the purpose of an assessment that will determine its emphasis and the most appropriate approaches and methods. Not all methods are suitable for answering all questions and some may be more suitable than others for producing relevant knowledge to inform an intended audience.

Purpose. Until MEDIATION, there had been no systematic analysis of CCIAV assessments from the perspective of categorising their purposes; indeed, studies are rarely explicit about the intended use of their results in the sphere of decision-making. However, there are a few studies that have recognised how different study purposes can give rise to varying information needs, which in turn can have an integral role in guiding the selection of approach and associated methods of assessment (e.g. (Füssel and Klein 2006); (Smit and Wandel 2006); (Hinkel 2011)).

We have compiled some of the more common purposes cited for undertaking CCIAV assessments into the following list (based in part on Carter et al., 2007; (Füssel and Klein 2006); (Hinkel 2011)):

• Identification and prioritisation of research priorities
• Improving process understanding (basic research)
• Raising awareness of climate problems
• Building capacity for future vulnerability and adaptation assessments
• Developing and testing new research methods and tools
• Determining the effectiveness of interventions
• Identifying vulnerable sectors and communities
• Estimating potential impacts of changes in mean climate and variability
• Identifying potential adaptation measures
• Prioritisation and costing of adaptation measures
• Exploring trade-offs between adaptation and mitigation policies
• Mainstreaming climate into wider policy agendas (e.g. sustainable development)

The list is by no means exhaustive, but its diversity points to some of the boundary conditions and constraints imposed on researchers, which may have an important bearing on the types of results obtained and their applicability, if any, for decision-making.

Beneficiaries. Closely linked to the purpose, is the target audience for the assessment ("beneficiaries"). Assessment beneficiaries are actors and/or stakeholder groups who are the intended users of the assessment results (i.e. those who may benefit from knowledge generated by the research). These may be implicit or explicit in an assessment. The category also covers potential beneficiaries who may use the results indirectly or for whom the benefit is unclear. Typical examples of assessment beneficiaries include researchers and research-linked communities such as funding agencies, decision-makers at different levels and key sectoral stakeholders. Beneficiaries may or may not also take an active role in the design and conduct of an assessment, but this aspect of an assessment is treated separately under stakeholder participation.

Approaches. The purpose and target beneficiaries will largely determine the required outputs of an assessment, which in turn dictate the overall emphasis of a study and the types of approaches that can be deployed to achieve its goals.

2.1.2 Dimensions of the assessment

The focus of an assessment can be defined with respect to three main dimensions: its topical theme or focal sector(s), regional scope and spatial resolution, and time horizon over which the study is applicable.

Sectoral or thematic focus. Impact and vulnerability assessments typically focus on particular sectors, such as agriculture, water resources, tourism or human health. In other cases, especially in bottom-up studies of vulnerability and adaptation, assessments may focus instead on specific communities or population groups. Increasingly, especially for large national or regional CCIAV assessment programmes with multiple projects drawing on different disciplines and traditions, assessors are called upon to address interactions and linkages between different sectors or populations, as climate change may bring about critical synergies, co-benefits, conflicts and trade-offs that are of importance and interest to actors operating in a complex decision environment.

Region and spatial scale. Defining the regional scope of an assessment places a geographical and environmental stamp on a study that might be of interest to other researchers working in comparable environments or seeking analogues of their own region under a future climate. From a decision-making perspective, it is important to know what area(s) and scale(s) the results represent, be it a country, geographical region spanning multiple countries or a sub-national region. The spatial resolution of the assessment will offer clues about the level of detail a study has gone into, and the types of data and analytical tools that were required to achieve this.

Time horizon and resolution. Finally, the time horizon of an assessment will indicate whether it focused on present-day conditions and/or looked backward (such as for detection and attribution) or forward in time, over what time span the analysis extends, and whether the study focused on fixed periods (time slices) or considered change in a time-dependent (transient) mode. The time resolution at which analyses are conducted also has implications for the data and tools that were applied.

These dimensions have been taken into account in the design of the MEDIATION toolbox. The framework (decision trees) that provides access to the toolbox entries however has been designed on the basis of generic adaptation challenges which our case studies and literature review suggested to be the best choice (i.e. our work suggested that platforms should be built around adaptation challenges rather than around climate risks).

2.1.3 Methods and participation

With the purpose, emphasis and dimensions of an assessment specified, analysts are presented with an array of choices regarding the most suitable methods to apply. The role of stakeholders is an important component in this choice.

Methods and tools. For assessment approaches, there are numerous methods available to address specific questions through a specific type of analysis. The methods may be quantitative or qualitative, and they often have to be tailored to the particular circumstances of a given study. The description of a method should cover both the generic method type (e.g. statistical, modelling, decision-support, participatory, indicator-based, economic valuation, etc.) as well as details of its application in the particular case (see MEDIATION platform in chapter 3).

Stakeholder involvement. The value of participatory research methods for ensuring the saliency, legitimacy and credibility of CCIAV assessments is repeatedly stressed in literature, so the active involvement of stakeholders also needs to be recorded. This category should specify the key stakeholder groups who have formally influenced the assessment results through their inputs as well as describing the format of their involvement.

2.1.4 Information management

Central to almost all CCIAV assessments are questions relating to the availability, quality and application of information used to represent different aspects of the environment and human society affected by climate change. Methods of characterising the future, typically through the use of scenarios, are important for determining the risks posed by climate change and for exploring mitigation and adaptation responses that might ameliorate adverse impacts. All of these choices are accompanied by uncertainties that need to be identified and effectively documented and communicated.

Guidance on data and scenarios. There is a formidable literature on the use of data and scenarios in CCIAV assessments, and MEDIATION did not seek to repeat earlier extensive reviews (e.g. see (Mearns, Easterling et al. 2001); Carter et al., 2007; (Rounsevell and Metzger 2010). In 1996 the IPCC formed TGICA, a special cross-Working Group committee co-chaired by one of the MEDIATION team members, to address these questions. TGICA has prepared a number of guidance documents on data and scenarios (e.g. IPCC-TGICA, 2007; (Nicholls, Marinova et al. 2011), regional workshops have been arranged on the topic and the IPCC Data Distribution Centre was established to facilitate the timely distribution of consistent data and scenarios for use in CCIAV and mitigation assessments that can ultimately feed into the IPCC assessment process. Furthermore, many governments, national and international agencies are now investing heavily in the provision of data and scenario support for climate change research.

Qualitative information. Qualitative descriptions of past, present or future conditions can be very effective ways of conveying information to non-specialists, though these descriptions may be based on quantitative data. Moreover, narrative descriptions of possible future developments (storylines), by virtue of not specifying precise numbers, can be useful devices for framing the future that allow analysts some flexibility in interpreting future regional trends (Rounsevell and Metzger 2010). Through dialogue and negotiation, they can also allow for direct stakeholder participation and eventual buy-in to an agreed set of storylines (Alcamo 2001).

Quantified variables and their sources. As climate change is the central focus of study, most CCIAV assessments, especially those employing models, make use of climate information for a wide range of variables (e.g. near surface air temperature, precipitation, solar radiation, wind speed and humidity are the most common). Data may also be required to describe all relevant attributes of a system or activity exposed to climate change, or preconditioning human responses to climate change. Data may be physical (e.g. forest productivity, river flow, water quality or soil nutrient status), economic (e.g. income, or price), social (e.g. population, employment, education) or technical (e.g.irrigation forest equipment, building materials). Potential sources of data are highly case specific.

Some data are observed or collected operationally, such as weather, stream flow, sea level and wave heights, population, economic activity. These are commonly available from national or international agencies and government statistical offices. They might also be collected especially for a study, in targeted experiments or surveys. Climate information from the past may have been inferred from proxy information such as historical accounts, tree rings or ice cores. Information on regional climate can also be simulated using climate models. Some climate information can also be derived from other climate variables (e.g. accumulated temperatures, evaporation, number of frost days). Data are often re-formatted to suit the needs of users, for example, by aggregating population data by regional units, or by interpolating observed climate data from weather stations to a regular spatial grid.

Characterising future climate. Projections of future climate that are applied in CCIAV assessment are conventionally referred to as climate scenarios or projections (Mearns, Easterling et al. 2001), which distinguishes them from climate predictions or forecasts, to which probabilities can be attached. However, this distinction is becoming blurred as climate scientists have moved towards expressing future climate in terms of conditional probabilities. A useful recent comparison of different methods of climate scenario development for use in CCIAV is provided by Wilby et al.(2009).

2.2 Adaptation turning points: Identification of impact thresholds, key risk factors and potential adaptive responses

In addition to coverage of more traditional approaches to CCIAV assessment as discussed in 2.1 MEDIAION also explored the application of a so-called adaptation turning points approach for a number of situations. Concerned citizens increasingly pose questions as to whether current management practices are able to cope with climate change and increased climate variability or whether alternative strategies are needed. Adaptation turning points focus on the specific situation where, due to climate change, current management will no longer be able to meet its objectives and alternative strategies have to be considered. The adaptation turning point concept allows for nesting adaptation options within a longer time frame (Smith, Horrocks et al. 2011). This is particularly useful when developing strategic alternatives for the management of a system under climate change and when considering adaptation options with a longer decision and implementation lifetime (more than 10 years, e.g. starting viticulture at higher altitudes in the Tuscany case). The concept can also be used to assess thresholds in taking adaptive action (e.g. the MEDIATION Tuscany case; Haasnoot, Kwakkel et al. 2013; Lowe, 2009).

The method starts from the perspective that management aims to sustain conditions for social-environmental activities. A critical threshold is reached at the moment that climate change renders policy untenable or results in conditions that society perceives as undesirable. At such a threshold situation, it is not only important to know the extent of the impact, but at least equally important is to know when and how likely it is that the situation occurs. This way, not the value of –for example- sea level rise matters, but the question whether or not current management is sustainable under a changing climate, and when adjustments are required (Kwadijk, Haasnoot et al. 2010). Assessing climate impacts in terms of the finiteness of policy objectives has the important consequence that it invites to elicit and discuss the thresholds that society should not transgress. Ultimately, this question is a normative one – how much change and risk is society willing to accept? Many studies of adaptation view the legal and political system as boundary conditions. Yet, by focusing on those boundaries and how to move them, greater realisation of adaptation can be achieved (Cosens and Williams 2012);(Adger, Quinn et al. 2013). The focus on thresholds highlights that adaptation operates at two distinct levels: changes to the physical environment, and changes to the decision environment, including policy objectives. An often overlooked strategy in adaptation planning is for actors to accept changes and adjust policy objectives accordingly. Starting from the threshold situation where the current management strategy can no longer meet its objectives, the concept of ‘adaptation tipping points’ was advanced for a policy study of long-term water management in the Netherlands (Kwadijk, Haasnoot et al. 2010). It has proven successful in assessing and communicating water related risks, and it has become one of the scientific concepts underpinning the Dutch long-term water strategy (Haasnoot, Kwakkel et al. 2013). A similar planning approach was developed and tested for flood risk in the Thames estuary (Lavery and Donovan 2005); (Smith, Horrocks et al. 2011). Reported studies so far have focused on hydrological and technical thresholds for policy success (Kwadijk, Haasnoot et al. 2010); (Reeder and Ranger 2011); (Lempert 2013). In the MEDIATION context, cases with social-ecologically defined policy objectives have been explored (Werners, Swart et al. 2012); (Bölscher, van Slobbe et al. 2013). Although the studies differ methodologically, they address at least the following questions:

• What defines unacceptable change: which targets and thresholds exist for different actors?
• Under which climatic conditions are thresholds reached?
• When are thresholds reached (including capturing uncertainty in a time range)?
• When and how to respond?

To avoid confusion with the popular term ‘tipping point’ that people tend to associate with major change in biophysical systems, MEDIATION uses ‘adaptation turning point’ for the situation in which a social-political threshold is reached due to climate change. Social-political thresholds include formal policy objectives as well as informal societal preferences, stakes and interests, such as willingness to invest and protection of cultural identity. A number of challenges for the analysis of adaptation turning points approach follow below:

Scoping the assessment. The scoping of the assessment is an important first step. It helps identify stakeholders and policy plans under consideration. Starting from an existing policy process is likely to facilitate the engagement of actors, but may limit the turning points under consideration. Existing policy processes provide a well-communicable starting point for framing the assessment, yet a comprehensive analysis of climate change impacts and possible adaptation turning points may require putting this policy process in a wider perspective, including the exploration of the various ways stakeholders frame the issues to be addressed.

Climate scenarios and impacts. Climate scenarios and impacts are relatively well documented in all cases. This allows for different approaches to be used in the assessment, such as a more qualitative approach (Wadden case, see annex), a quantitative scenario approach (Rhine case, see annex) and a risk-based approach (Tuscany case, see annex). Yet, arguing from the perspective of policy goals and stakeholder preferences, it is found that some critical scenario parameters are not included in the scenarios developed for adaptation policy planning, for a variety of reasons. In the Wadden case, for example, storm intensity was found to be an important parameter. This parameter is however not provided by the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) and in the Delta scenarios that are prepared for the long term water safety policy (the Delta Programme), due to the fact that scientific uncertainties are considered to be too large to justify projections. An additional complication is that the important assessment of the timing of adaptation turning points is often not possible because climate projections are still often only provided for one or two future years rather than transient, as a function of time.

Socio-political objectives and thresholds. Policy goals are not always clearly defined, especially with respect to potential impacts of climate change. Different stakeholders have different parameters by which they measure the success or failure of policy. National goals can be disconnected from local preferences. Policy objectives may be relatively clear for a sector like water management, yet less developed for other sectors (e.g. nature protection). The method may inappropriately focus attention on the most clearly defined stakes. The occurrence of turning points is often found to depend on a complex of scales and factors. A statement about whether or not an adaptation turning point will be reached will always have to indicate clearly with respect to which set of policy objectives and societal preferences. For ecological systems it may be more difficult to formulate thresholds than for technical systems. Thresholds that have been included in policy (such as water temperature ranges) may ultimately not be indicative for ecological success (or failure, e.g. of the salmon to re-establish in the Rhine). The assessment of adaptation turning points may be more meaningful in cases where quantified policy standards are less ambiguously linked to higher, often qualitative policy objectives. From this perspective the case of water safety, for which the concept of adaptation turning points was originally developed, may be more successful in yielding communicable results (as the performance of water infrastructure is directly linked to climate variables) than the case of improving ecological status (which has more complex linkages to climate variables).

2.3 Socio-economic evaluation

2.3.1 Review of available methods for cost assessment

Specifically for assessment of adaptation options, the UNFCCC (2010) summarised a broad range of methods identified by IPCC (2007), which includes:

• Scenario-based approaches, where climate risks are scoped qualitatively or quantitatively and adaptation options are identified.
• Technological assessments, which extend to include future adaptation options (that differ from those currently available) under alternative socio-economic scenarios.
• Normative policy assessments, which use the outputs of vulnerability and/or risk assessments to assess acceptable adaptation options or strategies.
• Risk management methods, which combine current risks to climate variability and extremes with projected future changes, using alternative decision support tools to assess adaptation.
• Anthropological and sociological methods, which identify learning in individuals and organisations and the processes needed to effectively adapt to climate change risks.
• Adaptive Capacity Assessments, which considers investment in adaptive capacity in a way similar to adaptation options.
• Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA), where the benefits and costs of adaptation are expressed in monetary terms, and the net benefits or costs calculated.
• Non-formalised cost-benefit analysis, where costs and benefits are compared, using monetary and non-monetary terms as part of multi-attribute analysis.
• Cost-effectiveness Analysis (CEA), which is often used to assess alternative adaptation options or the least-cost path to reaching a given target (e.g. a predefined threshold level).
• Multi-criteria analysis (MCA), which allows consideration of quantitative and qualitative data together using multiple indicators.
• Portfolio Theory, which borrows principles from financial investment to maximise the expected rate of return for a portfolio as a whole rather than individually.
• Participatory techniques, which base analysis on direct participatory approaches.

The most typical methods for appraising adaptation options (decision support) used in the literature are Cost Effectiveness Analysis (CEA), Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA), and Multi-criteria Analysis (MCA) though other approaches have been adopted. In relation to the climate change impacts and the overall economy impacts of adaptations, applied general equilibrium models have occasionally been used. High level adaptation costs have also been assessed in some of the so-called integrated impact assessment models. Other methods such as optimization models, scenario analysis and real options analysis are also used in different cases of climate change analysis.

A Classic impact assessment starts with identifying the expected climate change and its impact. Next is an inventory of adaptation options which need to be assessed. Once a list of adaptation options has been complied, they can be prioritised using various methods, and subsequently, rejected, postponed or selected for implementation. This simple adaptation framework lends itself most readily to monetisation, however, other frameworks adopt different approaches, and involve different aspects. Individual options for adapting to the impacts of climate change can potentially be appraised within a standard framework of cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) or they can be compared using monetary values as a common metric in cost-benefit analysis (CBA). The challenge is in trying to compare and aggregate adaptation responses on a consistent basis. The methods and tools to be applied depend on the specific circumstances and the setting of the problems. The major finding regarding to the choice of CEA, CBA and MCA is:
a. In some settings a CEA might be sufficient to identify the least cost solutions to fulfil the standard under the changed climate conditions and provides a ranking of alternative options. CEA is suitable for options that are difficult to value. Examples of application of CEA include health issues, freshwater systems, coastal and river flood risks, extreme weather events and biodiversity and ecosystem services.
b. In other settings climatic change requires to make new calculations about the costs and benefits of alternative adaptation options, and this may lead to a revision of existing standards. In such a setting a full CBA can be used where the costs and benefits are considered and by means of discounting the net present value (NPV) of the alternative projects are established and the project with the highest NPV is being selected. Examples of application of a societal CBA include the assessment of raising dikes against sea-level rise, freshwater systems, and agricultural sector.
c. MCA can be used in cases where a variety of criteria is used to assess the alternative options. This method can be used to identify a priority ranking for adaptation options as a starting point for more detailed assessments and analyses. MCA is suitable when quantification and valuation in monetary terms is not possible. In cases where benefits cannot be quantified and valued (e.g. the benefits of preserving biodiversity, environmental services), MCA is preferred to CBA.

However, it should be noted that there are potential benefits in adopting multiple methods and approaches in an analysis of the costs and benefits of adaptations. It is almost impossible to see how one single approach could capture all of the complex methodological issues raised, address types of adaptation and/or different objectives. There is a need for methodological development to properly address the costs and benefits of adaptation option. The key challenges are related to uncertainty, economic valuation and equity (UNFCCC, 2010).

Other approaches to the climate adaptation analysis at different levels include optimisation models which can consider the interactions between climate change and economic system. This can be conducted at different levels. For the aggregated level (economy-wide), computable general equilibrium models can be used. At the sector level, cropping system models have also been considered as a tool to identify the optimal cropping patters. In the case of uncertainty, scenario analysis offers some information for the future impacts of adaptation with uncertainty in climate change and social and economic development, though scenario analysis should be combined with one of the methods discussed above (e.g. extended CBA, portfolio analysis or robust decision theory). Real Options approach is another way to incorporate uncertainty. By using a decision tree with information on costs and benefits and probabilities associated with different options, best strategies can be identified. Besides, portfolio analysis and robust decision theory are also gaining more attention in the field of climate change adaptation with deep uncertainty.

2.3.2 Focus on cost-effectiveness assessment

One of the specific activities of MEDIATION targeted the question to what extent the application of cost effectiveness assessment (CEA) to the adaptation domain would be possible and could provide a useful method for decision support. Cost-effectiveness analysis is a decision support tool that is used to compare the costs of alternative ways of producing the same or similar outputs. In this respect it is a relative measure, i.e. it provides comparative information between choices. It has been widely used for assessing the least-cost way of reaching given targets, thresholds or pre-defined levels.

The CEA approach has also become the main method of analysis for greenhouse gas mitigation, through the use of marginal abatement cost curves. These curves are constructed by identifying all the expected abatement opportunities, then representing the cumulative abatement potential against a common metric of cost per tonne. Many commentators have assumed that a similar approach can also be used in the adaptation domain. CEA is likely to require more detailed analysis for mitigation, and unlike the latter, there is no real potential for cross sectoral CEA and cost curve analysis across sectors. MEDIATION investigated the application of CEA to adaptation and identified the following issues.

• Adaptation is generally a response to a local, regional or national level impact, rather than to a global burden as with mitigation. Unlike mitigation, the benefits (and effectiveness) are sector and even risk dependent, as well as being location and often technology specific. This makes the transfer of CEA to adaptation considerably more challenging.
• There are no common metrics (or units) of effectiveness for adaptation across all sectors. This contrasts with mitigation, where a common metric of tonnes of GHG emissions allows all options for all sectors to be ranked directly in terms of €/tCO2. The lack of a common metric (other than €) makes it is impossible to compare adaptation across sectors using economy wide MAC curves. Further, in many cases, adaptation benefits (effectiveness) also vary within a sector, as adaptation is a response to individual risks, making even sectoral comparison difficult.
• Adaptation requires consideration of a very wide range of options. In mitigation, most studies focus on technical measures (although non-technical and behavioural measures are relevant). For adaptation, soft non-technical options are much more important, and there are additional options of building adaptive capacity. These soft options are much more challenging to cost, and even harder to assess in terms of effectiveness (benefits).
• For adaptation, it is far more challenging to derive a baseline, because the effectiveness of adaptation measures will vary with the ability to adapt (adaptive capacity), and also because of the challenge in projecting future (baseline) socio-economic development and autonomous adaptation.
• The consideration of uncertainty is central to good adaptation, but is very challenging to include in CEA. Unlike mitigation, there is no single central projection to undertake a cost-effectiveness analysis against – or expressed another way, the use of single central CEA assessments for adaptation will not capture uncertainty and should be avoided. Alternative future projections, e.g. from different socio-economic scenarios and different climate models, will change the absolute level of effectiveness of options, the exact shape of the cost curve, and sometimes the relative ranking of options. Incorporating decision making under uncertainty into CEA requires a more complex approach and considerable resources.
• There are complex issues in the attribution of adaptation options, and there is a potential need to differentiate the benefits that arise from future climate change compared to the benefits in addressing the current climate (and any adaptation deficit, noting this overlaps with baseline issues above). Similarly there are attribution issues in responses to future socio-economic versus future climate change.
• There are multiple attributes (and in some cases, several objectives) that are important when adapting to any individual risk, e.g. the protection of people and also ecosystems for coastal flood risks. In many cases there will also be cross-sectoral effects, e.g. multiple sectors might use a single water supply. Finally, adaptation options often have wider ancillary effects which can be positive or negative, including synergies or conflicts with mitigation. Failure to take these wider effects into account is unlikely to lead to the most appropriate (holistic) adaptation options. However, the presence of numerous attributes complicates CEA, because of the need to consider more than one attribute at the same time in the least cost optimisation. This is in contrast to mitigation, which optimises on one attribute alone (GHG emission reductions). It is possible to address multiple criteria or objectives through simultaneous optimisation, which makes the assessment of adaptation options more complex, or by choosing a single headline indicator. There are also a number of other aspects that are important in ranking options, including distributional effects, the acceptability of options, public perception and political legitimacy.
• The time-scale of analysis is very important, because cost-effectiveness analysis is time dependent, requiring the specification of a base year and a future analysis year. Good adaptation needs to respond to changing risks over time, but this is difficult to include in a cost-effectiveness analysis, other than with multiple assessments in multiple time periods.
• The literature on adaptation also emphasises the need for robustness and flexibility, picking options that are reversible, keeping future options open, and avoiding lock-in. These issues can be advanced through an adaptive management framework, which allows learning, and can consider linkages and inter-dependences, as well as encouraging flexibility through the packages or portfolios of measures. In contrast, CEA tends to pick discrete options and implements these in a strict order.

2.3.3 Review of new methods for socio-economic evaluation

The objective of this section is to examine the potential use of a number of new and emerging decision support tools, which complement these existing methods, and which are particularly suited for adaptation because of their consideration of uncertainty. The methods considered are Robust Decision Making (RDM), Real Option Analysis (ROA) and Portfolio Theory (PT). The formal descriptions of these tools are summarised below.

Robust Decision Making is a decision support tool that is used in situations of deep uncertainty. In the most thorough applications of the approach, it involves the combination of both qualitative and quantitative information through a human and computer-guided modelling interface. The RDM approach was developed to help policymakers to make more informed near-term decisions which have long-term consequences (30 or more years) for future generations. One primary aim of RDM is to help policymakers anticipate or mitigate negative impacts of possible future surprises resulting from the interaction of factors (exogenous uncertainties) outside of their control, with measures that are within their control. This is described as decision-making under situations of deep uncertainty, for which little or no probabilistic information is available. RDM seeks to identify strategies that are robust, rather than optimal, over many future outcomes. The formal application of the approach uses quantitative models, or scenario generators, to evaluate how different strategies perform under large ensembles of scenarios reflecting different plausible future conditions (using hundreds to thousands to millions). Iterative and interactive techniques are then applied to “stress test” different strategies, to identify potential vulnerabilities or weaknesses of proposed approaches. This approach is characterised by the use of data mining algorithms to carry out vulnerability-and-response-option analysis. The focus on robustness aligns to the new focus on adaptation decision making.

Real Option Analysis is a decision support tool that can provide quantitative economic information on uncertainty and risk in cases where there is flexibility on the timing of investment decisions and some potential for learning. It can be applied where an investor (or a policy maker) has the option to invest in an asset at some point in the future, where there are uncertain returns on that investment, and where there is the potential to adjust the timing of this decision based on changes in underlying conditions or new information, such that this can improve the return on investment. ROA provides quantitative economic information to help make the decision on whether to invest or to wait. The approach is particularly relevant for analysing investments under conditions of uncertainty, especially those that involve irreversibility (e.g. sunk capital costs). The approach therefore has resonance for climate change adaptation.

Portfolio Analysis is a decision support tool for developing portfolios of options, rather than single options. It originated in the context of financial markets to explore the potential for portfolios of financial assets that would maximise the financial return on the investments subject to a given level of risk. Portfolio theory aims to spread investments over a range of asset types to spread risks at the same time, thereby reducing the dependence on a single asset. Portfolio analysis provides an analytical tool to help design such portfolios. The principles of diversification and the use of portfolios have high relevance for climate change adaptation, and the technique can assess the effectiveness of portfolios of options against climate change uncertainty, i.e. it can help in selecting a range of options that, together, are effective over the range of possible projected future climates, rather than one option that is best suited to one possible future climate.

Potential use for adaptation and strengths and weaknesses

Robust Decision Making is a useful tool when future uncertainties are poorly characterised and probabilistic information is limited or not available, which is a key strength for long-term climate change related decisions, though the lack of quantitative probabilities can make identifying scenarios a more subjective decision, influenced by stakeholders’ perception of risk. The main disadvantage of the formal (computer modelling based) application of the approach is that it has a high demand for quantitative information and computing power, which leads to high costs for in-depth analysis by RDM experts. RDM – in terms of testing options for robustness rather than optimisation – provides a way of sampling climate model uncertainty and prioritising adaptation options. While this does not cover full (deep) uncertainty, it does at least provide a way of sampling climate information without the need of probabilities.

Real Option Analysis is a powerful approach with a number of strengths, notably that it provides information on the timing of large investment decisions (for adaptation), providing a way to assess in quantitative and economic terms the relative benefits of acting now versus waiting. It also provides a way of valuing flexibility (i.e. of more flexible options) and can be used to assess whether the additional (marginal) costs of waiting or flexibility are offset by the option value provided for future learning. However, it also has a number of disadvantages, notably it’s fairly limited range of applications, the technical complexity of the formal economic analysis approach, the likely need for expert application, and the need for probabilities to allow the formal technique to work. Furthermore, in the context of climate change, where long time-scales are involved, there may need to be multiple risk points which amplifies all of these issues. The formal application is also very resource intensive. In practice, the approach can only be applied to a small number of particularly types of decisions, primarily those that involve large up-front irreversible investments, flexibility in the timing, and the opportunity for new information to emerge. Real Option Analysis provides an extremely useful way to set out adaptation decisions, through the use of the decision trees used in the approach. These provide a way to conceptualise the context of adaptive management – indeed this informal use of the approach has potential itself for adaptation.

Portfolio Theory allows consideration of a range of options that, together, are effective over the range of possible projected future climates, rather than relying on one option that is best suited to one possible future climate. The main strength of the approach is that it provides a structured way of assessing climate change adaptation whilst accounting for (climate change) uncertainty in a way that consideration of individual adaptation options does not allow. A major advantage is that the analysis can be undertaken using various metrics, ranging from a measure of physical effectiveness, cost effectiveness, or economic efficiency (costs and benefits), and this provides flexibility to a wide range of applications. However, the main disadvantage is that it relies on the availability of data on effectiveness (return) and (co-variance) – which requires probability, and further, the analysis of returns and co-variance is harder to meet for some impact/risk categories, e.g. where attribution to climate change is less straightforward, and/or the effectiveness of adaptation actions are not easily measured or identified. Portfolio analysis provides a way to think more broadly about combinations of adaptation options, rather than the selection of a single (‘best’) option.

The formal application of all of these techniques requires real expert knowledge, and in all cases, they require large time and resources to apply. As a result, the research has also considered the potential for less formal applications of the approaches, i.e. ‘light-touch’ versions. These are highlighted as being particularly promising for more general adaptation analysis and for the MEDIATION case studies.

3. Integrated methodology for assessing impacts, vulnerability and adaptation options

This chapter presents the MEDIATION (“integrated”) methodology consisting of a typology of problems connected to a typology of systematically labeled methods. This integrated methodology will allow its users to identify what type of problem they are facing and which set of methods is appropriate for addressing the problem. We first discuss a typology of methods and tools (3.1) followed by a synthesis of the integration of the two typologies into one integrated framework (3.2). Finally, we pay attention to some important features of uncertainties that have to be taken into account in adaptation assessments.

3.1 Typology of climate change vulnerability, impact and adaptation methods

A great variety of methods for assessing climate change vulnerability, impacts and adaptation (CCVIA) exists. This requires their systematic organisation and labelling in order to allow for the effective communication about and comparison between the methods and results produced as well as to support the selection of a method appropriate for a given case. The classifications found in the current literature prohibit this because they are based on abstract, ambiguous and very general terms such as vulnerability, integrated assessment, etc. and do not consider the wider array of social and action research methods that are being applied now that adaptation has become a practical necessity. This section proposes a more specific classification based on the knowledge and action-goals addressed, the situation assumed and the kind of results produced. On the top-level, the typology distinguishes between knowledge-oriented, decision-oriented and action-oriented methods. The former are further sub-typed into impact-analytical, behaviour-analytical and institution-analytical methods, where impact-analytical subsumes observed impact explanation and attribution, future impact indication and impact projection. For each of these types and subtypes we present example applications from the literature and discuss some of the issues involved. We find that much of the current literature on CCVIA has focused on impact-analytical approaches. In approaches aimed at institutions and individual behaviour, the typology has been developed on the basis of theoretical assumptions made in applying different methods. Further work should focus on climate specific classifications of the institutional and policy analysis literature as well as on refining conditions of applicability for methods. Of the classifications presented in the typology, only the impact-analytical methods are specific to climate adaptation. This has presented challenges in identifying and classifying a large area of institutional analysis work that is relevant to CCIVA. Further work should focus on further developing CCVIA specific classifications of the institutional and policy analysis literature.

The full typology developed using the methodology described above is presented in the form of a decision tree shown in Figure 3.4. Each branch represents a sub-type of methods, which are classified based on either empirical conditions of applicability or theoretical assumptions; the nodes in the tree are formulated as questions that address the conditions of applicability or theoretical assumptions relevant for a type of method. Table 3.2 gives a more detailed account of the top-level classes which are defined based on their goals and their top-level conditions of applicability.

It may be noted that the branches of knowledge-oriented methods differ from one another in terms of the extent to which they make use of theoretical distinctions, how specific the method types are to CCVIA, and the level of generality in the right-most types of the respective branches. Because the typology has been built in a bottom-up manner, these differences reflect the distribution of methods applied in the CCVIA literature. There is a relative wealth of studies applying impact-analytic approaches, as these methods have been developed specifically for analysis of CCVIA. Thus this branch of the typology is naturally based on the various conditions of applicability. In contrast, the branch classifying behaviour-analytical methods makes greater use of theoretical assumptions to form distinctions. These methods have, of course, not been developed with CCVIA in mind. Rather different assumptions underlying social science disciplines that analyse individual behaviour have been applied to understanding and predicting the adaptive behaviour of vulnerable actors. Here, building sub-types is more reflective of disciplinary and theoretical perspectives embodied in the methods applied.

For institution-analytical methods, both empirical conditions and theoretical assumptions are relevant in classifying methods related to CCVIA. Theoretical assumptions are relevant and taken as top-level criterion for classifying methods for the same reason as named above for the behaviour analysis: extensive scholarship in several social science disciplines has aimed at generating insights regarding the questions of why institutions emerge, and how institutions influence outcomes. These approaches are not specific to CCVIA and understanding the emergence and predicting the effect of institutions has only more recently been seen as an important and under-researched aspect in the domain CCVIA (Adger 2006); (Pelling, High et al. 2008). For this reason, it is instructive to first classify institution-analytical methods based on which fundamental question is considered salient. This is determined by theoretical choices underlying an approach, often based on considerations of a discipline. On the other hand, within a general approach, there have been methods applied that are quite specific to CCVIA. For example, policy analysis, as an instance of institutional design, has nearly exclusively focused on the question of mainstreaming CCVIA considerations into broader (development) policies. Here, the typology reflects empirical characteristics of policy analysis methods in the CCVIA literature from which there is ample material to draw; these types contain more concrete examples as they are more specific to the CCVIA field.

The classifications are presented in tables 3.2. Salient issues, or limitations, relating to a given type of method are discussed and examples are given.

The approach to method classification based on the question or goal each method addresses, provides benefits, in that it helps to understand and communicate better what has been done in adaptation case studies. Having a better understanding of methods is necessary in order to facilitate the often difficult communication amongst the multidisciplinary scholars and practitioners involved in CCIVA research and practise and to overcome dichotomies such as top-down vs. bottom-up methods that currently dominate the methodological debate in the field. Multiple methods are necessary in order to understand distinct aspects of the climate adaptation puzzle and to promote change in a diversity of context. Furthermore, classifying methods according to goals or questions they address is of particular importance for climate change adaptation as well as for other transdisciplinary research fields because one major challenge in these fields is asking the right question.

This typology has not addressed the combination of different methods in the context of overarching research or action goals. Adaptation studies usually do not apply a single method but rather a sequence of methods. Future work must be focused in the direction of analysing combinations of multiple methods in use, and providing guidance on optimal pathways for combining multiple methods in addressing climate adaptation. The basis for this work is provided by the typology, presented in the form of a decision tree for method selection, developed here.

3.2 The MEDIATION Integrated Methodology or Diagnostic Adaptation Framework

Building on typologies of problems and methods, this section presents the MEDIATION “diagnostic adaptation framework” that helps to identify approaches suitable from a problem-oriented perspective when confronted with a given adaptation situation. The framework is developed by meta-analyzing a suite of cases taken from the MEDIATION project and the literature. From this data we abstracted typical adaptation challenges researched, typical approaches taken, and empirical and theoretical criteria applied for choosing a particular approach. Adaptation challenges we then classified according to private and public interest involved, individual or various types of collective action involved, and the stage of the adaptation process. Finally we turned this into a series of decision trees that map, based on empirical and theoretical criteria, types of adaptation challenges to appropriate research approaches, or, in those cases in which research is not applicable, to practice approaches.

Adaptation situations

Table 3.3 summarizes the approaches applicable for the twelve types of adaptation challenges considered here. At the stage of identifying risks, similar approaches are applicable across all four types of adaptation situations with some differences for assessing capacity. At the stage of identifying measures, approaches differ significantly between the types of adaptation situations. While for private individual adaptation, the main challenge is to find information on suitable methods, for private collective adaptation, differing preferences need to be taken into account and mediated between. For public adaptation, identifying adaptation options requires understanding which cognitive and institutional factors drive or hinder the action of the vulnerable actors and hence institutional and behavioural analysis methods are applicable. At the stage of appraising options, formal methods may be applicable in all four adaptation situations considered, with participatory and consensus seeking methods only being applicable to the situations in which several actors are involved. There certainly is a role for research in adaptation, however research is not needed in every case.

An innovative aspect of development of case studies (see annex) in MEDIATION has been the emphasis on cases that have addressed several steps in the process of adaptation. Each case has iteratively identified salient questions, applied a salient approach, and then, on the basis of the resulting knowledge gained or action, identified the subsequent salient question to be addressed. The framework developed here, allows for clearer communication about what questions the cases have addressed. It further allows for an analysis of typical sequences of approaches applied in adaptation research and adaptation policy processes. For example, a common sequence of approaches is to project the residual impacts of options without comparing across scenarios, and then apply a participatory approach to appraise options. Approaches for adaptation decision appraisal are novel, and resource intensive. For these reasons, most studies are not yet able to formally compare several options across a range of scenarios. Further, the majority of the cases find impact projection to be salient, which is consistent with the observation that adaptation is currently in early stages. Further, nearly all MEDIATION cases have been undertaken in a developed country context in Europe in which resources, including the skills set of case study teams, did not constrain the methodological choice between assessing impacts and assessing capacity.

One complication that arose in mapping approaches to challenges is that there are no unique names for referring to approaches in the literature. For example, impact projections may be called vulnerability assessments or impact assessments in the literature. Assessing vulnerability can mean anything from projecting impacts to carrying out an institutional analysis (O'Brien, Eriksen et al. 2007; Hinkel 2011; Wolf et al. 2013). The term is therefore not useful for a precise discussion on methodological choices. Instead, we treated approaches for assessing vulnerability under more specific names. Vulnerability methods that make use of impact models are treated under the name impact projection. Vulnerability methods that refer to understanding the institutional context, including political, social and economic factors that structure individual choices are subsumed under methods for institutional analysis. These include methods for assessing “social vulnerability” considering rights, entitlements and power in the analysis (Bohle et al. 1994; Ribot et al. 2005). A similar difficulty arose with terms such as adaptive management, robust decision making and resilience approach and similar concepts which are often used to refer to a complete frameworks of how to approach adaptation including all stages of the adaptation process and both research and practice. When resolving the methodological ingredients behind those labels at a finer resolution, one finds that indeed a lot of similar approaches are applied including impact projection, stakeholder participation, formal decision appraisal, etc. Here, we were interested in the “ingredient approaches” and thus avoided the use of those general terms because it seems to us that the crucial methodological choices are at this lower level. To put in bluntly: there is no difference in choosing resilience or vulnerability approaches as under both labels the same lower level approaches and methods might be applied. Concerning the criteria for choosing approaches, we purposely disregarded pragmatic criteria. It must be noted though, that pragmatic criteria such as available funding, personal expertise, available models are often decisive. The majority of researchers are trained in a particular discipline and approaches, which determines how adaptation challenges are framed and hence which approach is applicable.

The resulting diagnostic framework

We presented a diagnostic framework that provides decision trees (see figure 3.5) for supporting the methodological choices in problem-oriented adaptation research. The purpose of this framework is two-fold. First it provides a coherent vocabulary for speaking about methodological choices and second it provides criteria for supporting methodological choices in problem-oriented adaptation research. The criteria we provide should be seen as indicative and the approaches we cover as exemplary ones covering the mainstream. The whole framework should be seen as a first step towards a differentiated discussion on how research may (or may not) support adaptation practice. Future work may refine this in several directions. First methodological choices for practice approaches, which we have disregarded here, could be explored. Second, approaches for and methodological choices involved in monitoring and evaluation may be investigated. This is particularly important as adaptation is now being implemented around the globe. While institutional constraints are frequently acknowledged in the adaptation literature, little research is conducted on this. This state of affairs presents an opportunity to overcome barriers by applying methods from social sciences including both methods to understand and methods to overcome barriers. Many methods from the social sciences and participatory action research can help to overcome barriers, as behavioural and institutional research may help to identify, understand and possibly overcome barriers before they are experienced in practice. Many of the methods applied in CCVIA are standard ones used in other research fields. This is, however, obscured by the non-standard labels sometimes used in CCVIA. Further, a legacy of the IPCC processes in adaptation research has been a preponderance of approaches focussing on impact projections and formal decision making. The framework developed here redresses this state of affairs by providing a vocabulary to integrate social science methods into a broader framework for climate adaptation research including impact and decision analysis approaches.

3.3 Uncertainty methods

The issue of uncertainty is critical for climate change science and policy. A great deal of research analysis has gone into identifying the scope and character of uncertainty in climate change itself, in how analysts and assessment teams can and should communicate that uncertainty to policy- and decision-makers, and how policy- and decision-makers can then incorporate knowledge about the sources and magnitude of uncertainty in their choices.

Three sets of guidance documents—the series of IPCC guidance documents, the suite of RIVM/MNP documents, and the SAP5.2 report—represent the state of the art in providing guidance on the analysis and communication of uncertainty for climate change decision making. Importantly, they are aimed at slightly different audiences. The IPCC guidance is aimed specifically at author teams preparing a written assessment report. It is irrelevant for these teams to consider issues of public participation, and it is in the mission of the IPCC that they are writing for the benefit of governments and negotiators. The Dutch RIVM/MNP guidance documents are aimed at analysts and scientists engaged in a wider range of environmental assessment activities within the same agency, although there is nothing to stop others—outside of the Netherlands—from also using the same guidance. The SAP5.2 report is less clear as to its intended audience—the introductory pages state that it is “to inform public debate, policy, and operational decisions”—but seems in many ways to be aimed at a wide range of scientists and analysts engaged in research and assessment of climate change issues.

We frame the insights from these guidance documents in terms of three simple themes: parsimony, personalization, and practicality. In the following subsections we explain what we mean.

Parsimony: less is more, but more is not less. A critical insight from the psychological literature that we have cited is that when people are presented with too much information for them to analyze, understand, and easily digest, they will ignore all of it. A critical insight from the political science literature that we have cited is that when scientists frame information as highly uncertain, they will often choose to take no action on its basis, also effectively ignoring all of the information. A clear ramification of this is that to get information to be used at all, it must remain simple, and must frame that information in terms of what scientists do know, and not in terms of where their knowledge falls short of predicting events with certainty, or according to a well-defined probability distribution. To apply this advice, it is useful to consider with the range of precision identified in the guidance paper for the AR4 (IPCC, 2007):

• A direction of change is ambiguous or unpredictable.
• A direction of change or trend can be identified.
• An order of magnitude for a change can be identified
• A range or confidence interval can be given, based on objective analysis or expert judgment.
• A probability of occurrence of a given event can be identified.
• A probability distribution can be identified for changes in a continuous variable.

The initial task is to identify the level of precision that is possible, and craft each statement to expresses the state of knowledge according to that level, rather than try to frame all statements around a common level. Hence, if the precision that is possible is a range or confidence interval (the fourth bullet point), the first statement that the decision-makers should encounter could be something like: “Scientists believe sea level rise for this location will be between X and Y centimeters.” This would be far preferable to a statement such as: “It is impossible to determine the precise amount of sea level rise for this location, or even the precise probabilities for different ranges of sea level rise, and so it is only possible to identify an outer range of between X and Y centimeters.” The first statement is more parsimonious. Many decision-makers will need only this first piece of information. Others will need and want more, such as how likely it is that scientific research will be able to provide more precise information in the future. An analogy is the reading of a newspaper article. Newspaper articles are structured with the core message in the headline and first paragraph, which is the only text most people actually read. The remainder of the story, perhaps the following ten or twenty paragraphs, provide additional detail, and background information, that is useful and interesting for a small fraction of the readers. In the same way, good decision-support needs to begin with the simple message, but then create an opportunity for decision-makers to learn more. How to do this depends on the medium of communication. Written reports accomplish this when they follow the journalistic style. On-line resources can accomplish this through progressive disclosure of information. Participatory processes can accomplish this through question and answer periods, or by dividing participants into breakout groups to focus on the problems most important to each person.

Personalization: every uncertainty has a human story behind it. In our scientific training, many of us learned to write scientific papers in a depersonalized style, using the passive voice, and not referring to the researchers themselves. Thus, we wrote sentences like: “Interviews of the stakeholders were carried out between X and Y.” Today, the accepted style of writing has changed, and we now would write the same statement as “I (or we, in a jointly authored paper) interviewed stakeholders between X and Y.” Causing the change has been the recognition that scientific research is indeed a personal and subjective process, and that the communication of scientists’ results is more accurate and more credible when they recognize, in their writing, their own role in the process. This lesson is even more important when scientists communicate with non-scientists, as they do in the process of decision-support. A great deal of research on communication and memory suggests that people recall, and act on, information that is laden with emotion, and that emotions themselves are most clearly tied to stories and events involving people. Where it is possible to tell a human story behind any piece of scientific information, do so, as it will make it easier for decision-makers to keep that information in their head. This is especially Important when it comes to making decisions under conditions of uncertainty, because this requires people to work with several pieces of information, many of them difficult to understand, at the same time. How can this function in practice, when much of the scientific information results from computer models? The answer is to describe, wherever possible, the work that people did gathering the data and developing the theory for those models, and the choices that the modellers faced in putting those data and theories into computer code. Providing as much personal detail as possible, such as the country or university where the researchers were working, increases the chances that the decision-makers will keep the results of that research in their heads. Providing personal detail also increases the chances that they will forgive less than complete scientific understanding. A challenge in presenting such detail is also to respect the need for parsimony. It can be an inherent trade-off, for which there is not good firm rule. One can surmise that experience in conducting assessment, as well as knowledge of the users and what details they will find most relevant, leads to improved judgment in terms of what personal details are most important.

Practicality: every decision-maker leads a busy life Scientists often spend years analysing a particular problem. When they advise decision makers, they often want the information used most productively, namely in a manner that leads to the best possible results, the optimum decision. Sometimes decision-makers want this too, and in these cases it is extremely helpful to be offered a decision-making framework within which to apply the information most effectively. But often they do not. Often they just want to make sure that any given decision doesn’t go horribly wrong, and thus to know that the new information that scientists are providing them doesn’t change this. It is like getting a flat tire while driving to an important appointment. You want to open the trunk and find a usable jack, wrench, and spare tire, to get you on your way quickly again. You don’t want to take this as a good opportunity to inspect the brake pads and grease the lug nuts. Put into practice in the context of decision-support, it means that we need to be willing to accept decision-making frameworks as they are, even if they are not well adapted the particular kinds of uncertainty that our information contains. That the status quo way of making decisions does not fit the new problem may especially be the case when uncertainties are high, because often the established ways of making decisions function well on the assumption of being able to predict outcomes well. Those decision-making frameworks are often in place for historical reasons that make good sense, and yet about which we as scientists know little or nothing. Given that ignorance, our job is not to explain to decision makers why they need to adopt a different decision-making framework. Rather, our job is to provide information that fits the framework that they are using. If their decision-making framework assumes perfect foresight, as will often be the case, then we need to help them to apply that framework multiple times to cover the range of possible or likely futures, so that they can understand the different options that they may decide upon. At the same time, however, there are cases where decision-makers do have the time to apply our information as effectively as possible, and are willing to consider alternative way of framing a problem, valuing outcomes, or selecting choices. For these cases, effective decision-support ideally involves working with them to identify the decision-making framework that is well suited not just to this immediate problem, but also to the broader class of problems that decision-makers may apply it in the future, having applied it here. Where this is not possible, such as in the case of a written report or online tool, then we can provide decision-makers with the option of learning about appropriate decision-making frameworks for their particular choice problem. It is essential, however, to make this information non-compulsory reading, in the spirit of progressive disclosure. The challenge that this creates is for us to know our audience. This in turn highlights the importance of good boundary organizations on the one hand, and participatory processes on the other. If scientists are to do a good job at research, they simply may not have the time to understand the ways in which their research results can and should be applied. That often needs to be a task for others, and in many ways it is a task no less important and no less difficult than the basic research itself.

4. Final conclusions, results and recommendations

The MEDIATION output includes journal papers, formal deliverables, the Platform and Policy Briefing Notes, which are described in the “societal impacts” section of this final report and provide more details about the project’s conclusions and results. In addition, MEDIATION has led to a number of findings with respect to the policy context of adaptation; new and improved adaptation approaches, methods and tools; recommendations for problem-oriented adaptation research; and future adaptation research challenges, which we summarize below in a number of selected findings below.

First, with respect to the policy context and the adequacy of available knowledge:

• Developing and implementing adaptation in Europe faces knowledge, capacity and skills challenges. Knowledge about climate impacts is diverse and fragmented, and is neither easily accessible nor interpretable. A variety of impact and/or vulnerability analyses exist, which are neither standardized in terms of a common underlying methodological concept, nor are the results comparable. Different methods may lead to different conclusions about implementing adaptation. Adaptation research lacks structure (in terms of a theory of adaptation), and new approaches are needed to strengthen and to support forward-thinking and consistent decision-making. Political institutions often do not have enough scientifically trained man-power or expertise to interpret the huge amount of data.
• There is no standard recipe for addressing adaptation. Adaptation situations are diverse and depending on the specific situation, addressing adaptation may involve a sequence of diverse natural and social science research as well as action tasks. Addressing adaptation is an iterative learning process: based on the knowledge of the adaptation situation, addressing a critical research or action task leads to new insights about the situation, which in turn lead to the formulation of a new task.
• The current scientific terminology in the context of climate change adaptation is not adequate for understanding the diversity of methods applied. One major source of confusion is, for example, the concept of vulnerability. “Assessing vulnerability” might stand for diverse methods such as projecting impacts, aggregating socio-economic data, building statistical models that explain observed impacts to analysing institutions.
• Better projections of climatic changes and their impacts are not always required to develop meaningful adaptation action. Quite often, policy and decision-makers request the scientific community to develop more reliable projections of climate change and impacts at higher resolution and shorter time scales as a prerequisite for taking action. While it is quite uncertain if the scientific community can provide such projections (and if so, when?), meaningful adaptation action is often possible without such information. Many methods and tools other than climate projections are already available to inform decisions about such actions, and are being made more easily accessible through the MEDIATION Platform.

Second, selected findings with respect to new and improved adaptation approaches, methods and tools:

• MEDIATION proposes the first comprehensive framework to structure adaptation challenges. MEDIATION developed a coherent diagnostic framework with multiple entry points that helps users select appropriate methods and tasks for a given adaptation situation. This facilitates international and interdisciplinary dialogue. It comprises a sequence of decision trees that map types of adaptation situations onto appropriate research approaches, or onto practices in those cases in which research is not applicable. The interlinked framework encompasses generic methodologies, natural science–based models, socioeconomic evaluation methods, and social and institutional analytical frameworks.
• Adaptation turning points are an innovative approach to addressing adaptation problems. This approach was pioneered in the field of water safety, but elaborated for other areas in MEDIATION (wine production, salmon reintroduction in the Rhine, and Waddensea ecosystem services). Adaptation becomes relevant to decision makers in threshold situations where, due to climate change, policies no longer meet their objectives and alternative strategies must be considered. A focus on such thresholds allows for pertinent dialogue between decision makers and scientists about how much change is acceptable, when unacceptable conditions may be reached, how likely these conditions are, and which alternative adaptation pathways could be considered in such a situation.
• MEDIATION adds new and improved methods to the existing adaptation toolbox. MEDIATION developed the first stand-alone European forest fire model, a pioneering attempt to quantify the impacts of reactive and preventive adaptation strategies within one modelling framework on a large scale. The Spanish case studies link natural science and economic modelling with stakeholder engagement actions, and test two innovative methods for climate adaptation assessment: social network analysis and analytical hierarchical processing. In addition to conventional socioeconomic evaluation methods such as cost-benefit, cost-effectiveness and multi-criteria analyses, MEDIATION proposes other methods for adaptation support (e.g. real options analysis, portfolio analysis and robust decision making).
• MEDIATION results are available for training purposes. In order to promote problem-oriented research and practice, MEDIATION has developed a number of training products and technical briefing notes. Further information can be found on the MEDIATION and weADAPT websites. They have been tested in a number of sessions for students and practitioners.

Third, selected findings with respect to recommendations for problem-oriented adaptation research:

• To address adaptation challenges, a diversity of methods can be used that can lead to novel, complementary insights. In practice, usually only a limited set of methods and tools is applied to address adaptation, often according to pragmatic criteria such as easy accessibility. This limits the coverage of important uncertainties and may lead to solutions that are misguided or too narrowly defined. For example, because adaptation research most often focuses on decision analysis, the potential of institutional and behavioural approaches to address adaptation may be overlooked.
• Information and decision support platforms should be built around adaptation challenges, rather than around climate risks. Implementation issues are often of a very different character than issues associated with the identification of particular climate risks. The alternatives for adaptation are far greater in number than the range of risks to which they respond, and indeed present a very heterogeneous and growing set of information and skill requirements. Any information or decision support platform designed to meet the challenge of adaptation would have to be continuously expanded.
• Understanding the relevance of uncertainties and different ways of framing adaptation facilitates science–practice interactions. Scientists and stakeholders from society think differently and along different time horizons. Decision makers therefore face challenges in interpretation, since different scientific concepts and definitions of key issues (such as vulnerability) exist, and must take into account different types of uncertainties (e.g. those related to simplification in models and those related to different assumptions). For researchers, framing research problems in the context of adaptation decision making can challenge the conventional paradigms of disciplinary research.
• Stakeholder engagement processes should be designed with care. Possible differences in the interpretation of terminology mean that language must be used prudently. Positive messages facilitate effective engagement. Research objectives and planning should be adjusted to the goals and agendas of stakeholders, rather than imposing research schedules. Indicator approaches can be more effective for raising awareness about vulnerability if stakeholders, rather than researchers, have a central role in their formulation and application.

Fourth, selected findings with respect to future adaptation research challenges:

• Development of a common framework in support of an “adaptation science”. Although the number of scientific papers on adaptation is rapidly increasing, these papers mostly describe particular cases. An internationally agreed common framework would be required to move beyond a collection of case studies and facilitate international comparison between adaptation situations and the methods and metrics that can be associated with them. The framework should encompass both bottom-up and top-down approaches.
• Development of a common terminology. Confusion about the different terms used in adaptation research and practice, as well as different interpretations of the same terms, hinders advances in both science and policy. An agreement on concepts, or at least an understanding of different interpretations of concepts used, is needed as part of a common adaptation framework.
• Expansion of the Toolbox. The variety of adaptation situations and the complex linkages between adaptation and other societal objectives require a further expansion of the Toolbox, including both the identification and amendments of methods and tools used in other areas as well as the development of new methods and tools. Adding tools and methods from regions other than Europe can broaden the applicability of the MEDIATION output — for example in the context of the UNEP Guidance on Assessing Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation (PROVIA).
• Development of simple evaluation methods. Many of the methods and tools currently applied to evaluate adaptation options require data that are often not available or appropriate. Pragmatic tools can help overcome this problem, or simple derivatives of more complex methods and tools that would require fewer data but still allow for the evaluation of those aspects of adaptation options that are important for the decision-making process. Identifying such concepts and providing guidance on the applicability of these concepts to different types of adaptation situations is a priority for future investigation.
• Increased emphasis on social science adaptation research. While institutional factors are increasingly recognised as being the most important barriers to adaptation, there is little dedicated social science research aimed at understanding which institutional arrangements are effective in which socioeconomic and biophysical contexts.


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Potential Impact:

1. Potential impact

MEDIATION addressed the rapidly evolving and urgent need for information on climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation by:

• Advancing the science through the development of a context-specific and integrated approach that allows for coherence and structure in the hitherto fragmented adaptation science landscape;
• Developing information that can be applied to support the EU’s responsibilities in the context of the UNFCCC, notably the Nairobi Programme of Work, UNFCCC Article 6, and, if appropriate, the post-2012 climate regime;
• Providing access to methods and tools to assist experts and policy advisors to help vulnerable stakeholders at appropriate levels in EU member states and neighbouring countries to assess climate change impacts and their vulnerability, and develop and implement adaptation strategies.

Focus on adaptation

How does MEDIATION help to address the adaptation challenge? While the overall objective of the project was to develop an “integrated methodology” for the assessment of impacts, vulnerability and adaptation, MEDIATION has interpreted this objective as focusing primarily on information relevant to support adaptation decision making. The MEDIATION project provides a framework for the systematic search for available methods and tools that can be meaningfully applied to address particular adaptation and vulnerability questions with the eventual goal to support adaptation action. Rather than suggesting a one-size-fits-all solution, MEDIATION acknowledges that adaptation questions are inevitably diverse, being determined by their regional and sectoral contexts. MEDIATION therefore builds on a varied set of case studies that reflect different European regions, different climatic risks, and different institutional contexts. It structures adaptation challenges into sets of decision trees reflecting different adaptation tasks. Because, methodologically, adaptation challenges are very similar across sectors or climatic risks, the decision trees are generic. They lead users to information about methods and tools that are available for their specific adaptation questions and include information about the conditions for their applicability. They are designed to be iterative, since the question may change when a tool or method is applied and new information is gathered.

Mediation results already used by various institutions

MEDIATION results are already used or planned to be used by a number of institutions:

• The Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation (PROVIA) of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has used the MEDIATION framework as the conceptual basis for its new Guidance on Assessing Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation.
• CLIMATE-ADAPT, the climate change adaptation information system of the European Union managed by the European Environment Agency (EEA), provides direct access to the MEDIATION Toolbox.
• Various MEDIATION outputs are integrated into an online “open space” on climate adaptation issues (including synergies with mitigation), which allows practitioners, researchers and policy makers to access credible, high-quality information and share lessons learnt.
• The Regional Environmental Center’s Sustainable Development Academy ( and the YEL! Initiative (Young Environmental Leaders) plan to use the MEDIATION framework and training materials.

In the following, potential impacts will be summarized for science (section 2) and for EU policy (section 3), followed by a summary of the main outputs of MEDIATION that can have socio-economic impacts after the end of the project’s lifetime, the platform (section 4) and the policy briefing notes (section 5).

2. Impacts on adaptation science development

In addition to the formal deliverables for the Commission, the MEDIATION project has submitted two proposals for special issues to journals. One on the overall MEDIATION Integrated Methodology was accepted by the journal Regional Environmental Change and papers including the main case studies are currently under review. A proposal for a second special issue, with about half of the contributions from MEDIATION, was submitted to the Journal of Water and Climate Change focusing on Adaptation Turning Points, a novel approach that was pioneered in The Netherlands and the United Kingdom in the area of water safety, and which was further developed as a policy-relevant approach to adaptation also for other sectors in the context of the MEDIATION project. Several project components, especially the case studies, are the subjects of papers published in other peer-reviewed journals. Also, the researchers involved in MEDIATION presented papers at a number of international conferences and workshops. These papers are often available online, via the meetings’ websites.

MEDIATION as a project was one of the founders of the 1st European Climate Change Adaptation conference hold in Hamburg on 18-21 March 2013. Several MEDIATION papers were presented during this conference. One of the scientific sessions was specifically organized around the project’s findings. Joined efforts of the coordinators of our FP7 projects (ClimateCOST, CLIMSAVE, MEDIATION, and RESPONSES) for the organization of the 1st ECCA conference were highly appreciated. As a result it is likely that the Hamburg conference has opened a series of bi-annual conferences, organized in between the years of the biannual global adaptation conferences under the umbrella of UNEP PROVIA. The next one is likely to be held in 2015 in Copenhagen.

The scientific outputs are expected to put MEDIATION findings into the forefront of adaptation science development. These findings (e.g. in terms of precision of articulating adaptation tasks and questions, the emphasis of combining top-down with bottom-up, and natural with social science approaches, and the acknowledgement of the huge diversity of adaptation situations that require various combinations of methods and tools) are of a fundamental nature. The MEDIATION outputs put the wide diversity of adaptation situations into a coherent framework, Therefore, MEDIATION outputs and findings are expected to serve as reference points for future adaptation research and policy analysis.

3. Impacts on adaptation policy

Knowledge gaps in the EU Adaptation Strategy

MEDIATION has not been conceived to directly support policy development or decision-making, but rather to add to the knowledge basis supporting policy and decisions. The MEDIATION project implementation period corresponds to an important phase in the development of adaptation research and policy in Europe. In the European Union, there are wide differences between existing and projected climates. Socioeconomic, administrative and legal landscapes vary across Europe, as does the level of commitment to dealing with adaptation. Since 2005, more and more countries have started to address the projected climate change risks by adopting national adaptation strategies, and the European Commission launched the European Adaptation Strategy in 2013. A coherent and pertinent “adaptation science” that could support the implementation of these strategies is in its formative stage at best. This is recognized by the EU Adaptation Strategy, which aims in its 4th Action to bridge the knowledge gap in the following four areas:

• Information on damage and adaptation costs and benefits;
• Regional and local-level analyses and risk assessments;
• Frameworks, models and tools to support decision-making and to assess how effective the various adaptation measures are;
• Means of monitoring and evaluating past adaptation efforts.

MEDIATION and its platform provide structured information about methods and tools related to all these four knowledge gaps.

Bridging knowledge gaps

In the EU Adaptation Strategy it is announced that “the Commission will further work with Member

States and stakeholders in refining these knowledge gaps and identifying the relevant tools and methodologies to address them. The findings will be fed into the programming of Horizon 2020 (2014-2020) and will address the need for better interfaces between science, policy making and business. They will also be used to improve the information available on Climate-ADAPT.” In this context, it is important to note that in the early stages of adaptation policy development, clear knowledge gaps, often concerning climate risks, need to be addressed. However, as countries progress, the nature of further research needs becomes less clear cut. Learning more about the socioeconomic context of adaptation measures is one specification for future research. There is a great variety of adaptation policies in member states and there is no obvious pattern that explains why some countries share particular needs or face particular challenges. Even with a Strategy adopted and mainstreaming of climate change underway in several sector policy areas, the EU may not have the capacity to cope with such variety of challenges “on the ground”, or to harmonise national adaptation policies, but it can trigger action in countries where it lags behind. In particular, interviews in member states suggest that the EU can serve as a hub for the exchange of information and methods, such as good-practice examples (case studies) — that is, knowledge of what works in which context and what does not. MEDIATION contributes information about available methods and tools to support the process of advancing adaptation, including a contribution to the EU climate change adaptation information system CLIMATE-ADAPT.

Support to UNEP PROVIA

• MEDIATION is also expected to have a lasting impact beyond Europe. The Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation (PROVIA) is a global initiative which aims to provide direction and coherence at the international level for research on vulnerability, impacts and adaptation (VIA). In 2012, a draft Guidance document was developed for PROVIA on methods for climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation assessment. Four MEDIATION team members (namely Sukaina Bharwani, SEI; Sandy Bisaro, ECF, Tim Carter, SYKE, and Jochen Hinkel, ECF), served as lead authors for this draft Guidance, which builds on the MEDIATION concept with decision trees and the toolbox. UNEP PROVIA intends to test the draft guidelines in various world regions, and to develop training activities in developing countries. Although the MEDIATION material will have to be expanded to be useful also in a developing country context, the already implemented use of the MEDIATION conceptual methodology (diagnostic adaptation framework) and the possible future use of the Platform as the basis for an electronic version of the Guidance, potentially have a significant impact on the capacity of experts and policy advisors around the world to develop and implement adaptation policy and action. A joint side event is being planned for the UNFCCC COP19 in Warsaw.


Dissemination activities are crucial for exploiting project results and for achieving the practical implementation of project outcomes. Participation of relevant actors in early stages of the research process is also crucial to fit the research and dissemination plan to their needs and capabilities. These include policy advisors, governmental and other decision makers responsible for risk mitigation and adaptation. Beyond that, standard scientific communication channels (publications and conferences) and web-based provision of results to the public are elements of the dissemination strategy. Therefore training and decision-support materials have been developed, tested and produced for open access (see also sections 4 and 5). The major goal of the usage of MEDIATION output for training is to demonstrate to the potential users the features of the MEDIATION Adaptation Platform applicable in routine decision making processes where adaptation is an integral part. Several specific goals target to provide the potential users with strong motivation beyond purely environmental considerations (legal, political, and financial) to integrate adaptation activities into their decision making support practices.

The potential of using MEDIATION output for training purposes was tested in a series of training events organized by MEDIATION partners. Reduced budget as compared to the original proposal has specifically affected this project component, and the trainings happened on a more modest scale and scope than initially planned. Even with the lesser scope the relevance of the training activities for the development of the platform and final training materials is difficult to underestimate. These activities made it possible to acquire feedback from the users of the integrated methodology and the common platform, understand their concerns, improve the content and user interface of the Platform, and provide the future trainers and users with practical advices and materials. In particular, pilot versions of the MEDIATION Platform were used in several training sessions carried out for young scientists (Wageningen University courses, Oxford) and policy advisors (regional training for the Balkan region in Belgrade, Serbia). The training events included specially designed exercises. The Regional Environmental Centre’s Sustainable Development Academy ( and the YEL! Initiative (Young Environmental Leaders) plan to use the MEDIATION framework and training materials, but also opportunities will be explored to support capacity building in the context of UNFCCC COP and SBSTA activities.

4. The MEDIATION Platform for climate change adaptation methods and tools

The main results of the MEDIATION project are reflected in the interactive MEDIATION Adaptation Platform ( This platform helps to specify the tasks that have to be performed to address climate hazards effectively. It provides access to a Toolbox with methods and tools that are suitable to inform decision-making, dependent on the particular situation. It does this through the MEDIATION Adaptation Pathfinder. The decision trees in this Adaptation Pathfinder have been derived from a number of diverse case studies in different parts of Europe. The Adaptation Platform is intended for use by experts with some basic technical or scientific knowledge and skills, who engage in policy advice, policy analysis or other research supporting decision making on climate change adaptation.

The platform comprises three main entries.

The MEDIATION Adaptation Pathfinder provides methodological guidance on assessing climate change vulnerability, impacts and adaptation (VIA) as well as on implementing, monitoring and evaluating adaptation. This encompasses a wide range of tasks addressed by a diversity of methods. While many previous guidances have focused on particular tasks or methods, this guidance presents a novel approach to integrating these into a coherent framework. We thereby emphasise the diversity of adaptation situations considered as well as the diversity of approaches and methods needed.

Another innovative feature is that this pathfinder provides guidance on which methods are applicable for which situation. In order to select appropriate methods for VIA, a series of methodological choices must be made and this guidance presents criteria and decision-trees that guide the reader through these choices. Note that the decision-trees provide guidance through the methodological choices of selecting methods, and not through the adaptation decision themselves. When appropriate methods have been identified, further guidance is provided on applying the specific methods

We organize the methodological choices according to five general stages of what we call the adaptation learning cycle, which are

a. Identifying vulnerability and impacts;
b. Identifying adaptation options;
c. Appraising adaptation options;
d. Planning and implementing adaptation;
e. Monitoring and evaluation.

Note that this is an idealized model of problem solving or decision-making and that this does not imply that "real-world" adaptation processes are or need to be linear, following these steps. Rather, real-world adaptation is messy and not a clean cycle. Acknowledging this, the guidance provides multiple entry points which allows the reader to enter at various stages or substages of the process. Note that we consider methods for assessing vulnerability and impacts only insofar as they are embedded into the wider picture of advancing adaptation. This means that impact assessment carried out for other purposes such as setting mitigation targets is not considered. Note also that vulnerability is a contested concept and as such not a useful one for giving precise methodological guidance. Assessing vulnerability might mean anything from projecting impacts to analysing institutions. In order to circumvent this confusion, we attempt to use the concept as little as possible. When we do use the concept of vulnerability, we use it in an intuitive sense without attempting to give it a precise meaning.

The emerging need for climate change adaptation decision support has been the driver for the creation of adaptation toolboxes. These toolboxes describe the steps to be undertaken in an adaptation risk management process, and also provide access and information on available methods and models for use in such analysis. Although the number of tools and guidelines relevant to climate change has recently increased, largely due to the efforts of international agencies and NGOs, prior to the MEDIATION project Europe still lacked a science based toolbox. CLIMATE-ADAPT, the European information system for climate change adaptation, includes only a very limited number of tools. It was precisely this gap that MEDIATION was able to fill, recognising that each different tool performs well in specific niches, but has different strengths and weaknesses. The MEDIATION Toolbox is closely integrated with the framework of decision trees in the Adaptation Pathfinder. MEDIATION thus guides users step by step through an adaptation assessment, provides exemplary tools, and recommends methods to be used, based on individual requirements.
The MEDIATION Toolbox has been filled with information about the methods and tools used in the MEDIATION case studies, complemented with other relevant methods and tools. The Toolbox currently includes about 40 methods and tools. Rather than attempting to be fully comprehensive, only those methods and tools were selected that the project team considered to be useful in a European adaptation context. Alongside a summary description of the method or tool, information is provided about its strengths, weaknesses, accessibility and applicability, and suggestions for further reading and references are supplied. The Toolbox has multiple entry points: the methods and tools can be found through the Toolbox itself, but also through the MEDIATION Adaptation Pathfinder and the Case Study Navigator. Filters that can be applied when searching the Toolbox include sectors, spatial scale, temporal focus (slow or sudden onset), type of decision process, level of skills required, data requirements, and type of adaptation task.
An important facet of new risk management methodologies is the combination of top-down and bottom-up approaches. Top-down impacts analyses (downscaling global climate scenarios) are unable to properly incorporate the complex properties of human–environment systems, since they result in a simplified representation of the local situation without taking into account factors that could substantially affect localised impacts: many indicators of social vulnerability and adaptive capacity are functions of social, cultural and institutional characteristics at the more local level. Bottom-up analysis is far better able to capture nuances and details at such small resolutions through an improved understanding of local human–environment interactions. This emphasis on a combination of top-down and bottom-up methods brings about the first stages of an exemplary cyclical or iterative risk management process; identifying possible risks, estimating impacts, and evaluating risks based on local vulnerability and adaptive capacity. Following these initial steps, the next goal is to determine which adaption options are the most effective, through identification and appraisal of options. After implementing chosen options begins the phase of re-assessing and monitoring risks based on the adaption steps taken.

The case studies of the MEDIATION project serve as illustrations for addressing several climate change adaptation challenges at different decision making levels, in representative countries of Europe. The cases have been selected with the aim of representing the sub-European regions (Northern, Western, Southern, Central Europe) in several vulnerable sectors such as health, land use, coastal areas, agriculture and tourism with 9 studies, besides 2 Europe-wide studies focusing on impacts of floods and forest fires.

5. Policy briefs

In addition to the formal deliverables, scientific papers and the Platform, the MEDIATION project produced a synthesis brochure with project results and 10 policy briefs (see figure 4.1) one of which summarizing the diagnostic adaptation framework and nine addressing different socio-economic evaluation methods. There is increasing policy interest in the appraisal of options, as adaptation moves from theory to practice. At the same time, it is recognised that the appraisal of climate change adaptation involves a number of major challenges, particularly the consideration of uncertainty. In response, a number of existing and new decision support tools are being considered for adaptation. MEDIATION has looked at adaptation decision support tools, in line with its objectives to advance the analysis of impacts, vulnerability and adaptation, and to promote knowledge sharing through an interactive Platform. The series of Policy Briefing Notes that have been produced on Decision Support Methods for Climate Change Adaptation are the following:

1. MEDIATION Synthesis brochure
2. MEDIATION Diagnostic Adaptation Framework
3. Overview of socio-economic evaluation methods (nr. 1)
4. Cost effectiveness (nr. 2)
5. Robust decision making (nr. 3)
6. Real options analysis (nr. 4)
7. Portfolio analysis (nr. 5)
8. Analytical Hierarchic Process (nr. 6)
9. Social Network Analysis (nr. 7)
10. Multi Criteria Analysis (nr. 8)
11. Adaptation Turning Points (nr.9)

The policy briefs can be found on: and on:

An overview of socio-economic evaluation methods reviewed is provided in Policy Briefing Note 1: Method Overview, which summarises each method, discusses the potential relevance for adaptation and provides guidance on their potential applicability. The methods considered include existing appraisal tools (cost-benefit analysis, cost-effectiveness analysis and multi-criteria analysis), as well as techniques that more fully address uncertainty (real options analysis, robust decision making, portfolio analysis and iterative risk (adaptive) management). It also includes complementary tools that can assist in adaptation assessment, including analytical hierarchic processes, social network analysis and adaptation turning points. Additional information on each method is presented in a separate Policy Briefing Notes (2 – 9).The policy briefs target audience is “someone who wants to have a look at what a certain approach involves, see an application, with a view to then going on to try them, or commission someone to do this (e.g. a policy maker working at the European Commission or in national government, or a researcher/ consultant wanting to find out about the techniques with a view to using on a project)”. In order to best serve the purposes of the target audience the briefs are kept brief, with about 5-10 pages.

List of Websites: