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Uncertainty guidance

Image credits: Nick Fewings on Unsplash, 2018

Uncertainty cannot be banished from science, but good quality of information depends on good management of its uncertainties [Funtowicz S. O & Ravetz J. R. (1994)]

Decision-makers looking to develop, implement and monitor adaptation strategies, plans, options and measures will always face uncertainty. Uncertainties associated with climate adaptation decision-making processes can be relative to data and information or the way these are perceived by those using it. The nature and extent of these uncertainties should be considered when deciding how to use data and information to make informed adaptation decisions. Those providing science-based knowledge in support of adaptation will also need to deal with uncertainty, which is an integral and unavoidable part of science.

Even with improving knowledge, uncertainty will remain inherent during the adaptation decision-making process and should thus be considered by both knowledge providers and decision-makers.

This page aims to support decision-makers involved in adaptation (and those informing them) in understanding the sources and nature of uncertainty in climate change information. It also provides suggestions for dealing with and communicating uncertainty in adaptation planning, both within the decision-making process and well as with the wider public. These pages are organised around three main topics of relevance for the adaptation decision-making process:

  1. What is meant by uncertainty?
  2. How are uncertainties communicated?
  3. How to factor in uncertainty?

For each topic, a basic background reading text is presented along with links to helpful resources and examples.

Please note that, notwithstanding the advice presented here, these pages are not intended to be used as a simple cookbook as each adaptation planning process will have its own characteristics and requirements.