2.5 Addressing knowledge gaps and dealing with uncertainties

Inherent to any decision-making process, uncertainty and knowledge gaps are particularly emphasised as a challenge when working on climate change adaptation. Still, this is not a reason for inaction. Investing in flexible, low-regret adaptation action is in the self-interest of most public and private actors. There are ways to successfully address those challenges.

First, the quality of the information on which the assessments are based as well as existing knowledge gaps need to be made explicit. Research, social learning, exchange of good practice and stakeholder cooperation can help reduce the lack of knowledge (e.g. regarding plausible climate change impacts, vulnerabilities and risks).

Second, when future society and environment might undergo rapid and unexpected change, the future does not appear to be predictable through simple extrapolation of historical trends. This can happen in the case of climatic developments and systems' response to them, but also in terms of socio-economic developments (e.g. economic crises, unexpected conflicts, pandemics). Therefore, it is important that the development of an adaptation policy does not assume a single future. It is crucial to identify, prepare for, and practice actions under several future scenarios.

Given the uncertainty associated with climate projections, robust strategies are required against a wide variety of possible future conditions. Dealing with uncertainty in adaptation planning is an important and challenging issue. It requires awareness of the key uncertainties associated with the analysis, and an understanding of the quality of the information on which it is based.

The Climate-ADAPT section on uncertainty guidance provides access to resources covering the following topics:


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