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Decision-making in a changing climate: adaptation challenges and choices

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F. Abdala
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The impacts associated with a changing climate are already rapidly changing the world. Adaptation to accommodate climate change will challenge decision makers at every level of government and in every sector of the economy. This edition of World Resources, aimed at those making these tough decisions, is based on a broad research programme and consultations with experts from more than 30 countries. The report seeks to reveal what steps should be taken to protect vital infrastructure, such as roads, dams, and factories, and the safety of housing stocks. It delves into what policies and investments should be adopted to help agriculture adapt to new rainfall and temperature regimes and to secure local food supplies. It also tackles the management and maintenance of ecosystems like forests which are vital to the livelihoods of disadvantaged people. The publication states that to prepare effectively for climate impacts and to be able to protect the most vulnerable people, decision makers should select approaches that are responsive, proactive, flexible, durable, or robust, depending on the type of change at hand. They will have to make early choices to take aggressive action with future risks in mind.The report identifies the following critical elements that will significantly strengthen the ability of national governments to make effective adaptation decisions.

Early and ongoing public engagement on climate change issues, to ensure that people appreciate the risks, understand policy decisions, and have a voice in how they are implemented and monitored.
Information such as geographically relevant weather data, that is easily accessible, can be shared with those affected, and used effectively to make informed decisions for varying time-scales.
Institutional design that allows governments to coordinate among agencies and stakeholders at local, sub-national, regional, and international levels, and to prioritise climate risks in planning and policymaking processes.
Human, financial, ecological, and social resources should be at every level and over time.
Tools to help governments assess climate risks and vulnerabilities, and decide among policy options. Some tools, such as hazard mapping, may be in place already, but need to be customised to support adaptation planning and policymaking; others will need to be created to meet the challenges and uncertainties that lie ahead.