IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

2.2.3 Advances in adaptation assessment

Significant advances in adaptation assessment have occurred, shifting its emphasis from a research-driven activity to one where stakeholders participate in order to improve decision-making. The key advance is the incorporation of adaptation to past and present climate. This has the advantage of anchoring the assessment in what is already known, and can be used to explore adaptation to climate variability and extremes, especially if scenarios of future variability are uncertain or unavailable (Mirza, 2003b; UNDP, 2005). As such, adaptation assessment has accommodated a wide range of methods used in mainstream policy and planning. Chapter 17 of this volume discusses adaptation practices, the processes and determinants of adaptive capacity, and limits to adaptation, highlighting the difficulty of establishing a general methodology for adaptation assessment due to the great diversity of analytical methods employed. These include the following approaches and methods.

  • The scenario-based approach (e.g., IPCC, 1994; see also Section 2.2.1), where most impact assessments consider future adaptation as an output.
  • Normative policy frameworks, exploring which adaptations are socially and environmentally beneficial, and applying diverse methods, such as vulnerability analysis, scenarios, cost-benefit analysis, multi-criteria analysis and technology risk assessments (UNDP, 2005).
  • Indicators, employing models of specific hypothesised components of adaptive capacity (e.g., Moss et al., 2001; Yohe and Tol, 2002; Brooks et al., 2005; Haddad, 2005).
  • Economic modelling, anthropological and sociological methods for identifying learning in individuals and organisations (Patt and Gwata, 2002; Tompkins, 2005; Berkhout et al., 2006).
  • Scenarios and technology assessments, for exploring what kinds of adaptation are likely in the future (Dessai and Hulme, 2004; Dessai et al., 2005a; Klein et al., 2005).
  • Risk assessments combining current risks to climate variability and extremes with projected future changes, utilising cost-benefit analysis to assess adaptation (e.g., ADB, 2005).

Guidance regarding methods and tools to use in prioritising adaptation options include the Compendium of Decision Tools (UNFCCC, 2004), the Handbook on Methods for Climate Change Impact Assessment and Adaptation Strategies (Feenstra et al., 1998), and Costing the Impacts of Climate Change (Metroeconomica, 2004). A range of different methods can also be used with stakeholders (see Section 2.3.2).

The financing of adaptation has received minimal attention. Bouwer and Vellinga (2005) suggest applying more structured decision-making to future disaster management and adaptation to climate change, sharing the risk between private and public sources. Quiggin and Horowitz (2003) argue that the economic costs will be dominated by the costs of adaptation, which depend on the rate of climate change, especially the occurrence of climate extremes, and that many existing analyses overlook these costs (see also Section 2.2.2).