Decision‐Making Under Uncertainty: An Assessment of Adaptation Strategies and Scenario Development for Resource Managers

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Moore, Sara, Zaveleta, Erika, and Shaw, Rebecca
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This paper contributes an analysis of natural resource management tools for planning for
climate change, including a case study on scenario planning, to the Climate Vulnerability and
Adaptation Study for California. It presents the findings of a literature review on decisionmaking
tools for climate change planning and consultations with adaptation planners, resource
managers, and scientists. In addition, it discusses lessons learned from a one‐day climate
change scenario planning workshop with resource managers and scientists working in Marin
County that focused on analyzing the scenario approach in the context of other approaches. It
also describes cases of public agency and private conservation non‐profit organizations working
on resource management problems under climate change.
The conclusions include the following:
Planning for climate change requires tools for making decisions under conditions of
uncertainty. The decision‐making tool of scenario planning, which incorporates the best
available information on climatic and socio‐economic trends to create multiple, plausible future
scenarios built on the variables of highest concern to resource managers, can help resource
managers interpret data to create concrete action steps to prepare for climate change.
The planning approach most helpful to resource managers may be a combination of different
approaches, including scenario planning within the context of the experimental, iterative
adaptive management approach and inter‐agency collaboration.
Once planning for climate change impacts has begun, organizational commitment and followthrough
are essential for long‐term success. Constrained public budgets and flagging political
interest in climate change pose barriers to planning for the impact of climate change on the
state’s natural resources. Nevertheless, resource managers can use the ongoing climate change
impact planning process to promote the understanding of the imperative to protect natural
systems as an integral part of society’s defenses against climate change impacts.


Moore, S., E. Zaveleta, and R. Shaw. 2012. Decision‐Making Under Uncertainty: An Assessment of Adaptation Strategies and Scenario Development for Resource Managers. California Energy Commission. Retrieved from