Robust adaptation to climate change

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Wilby, Robert L. and Dessai, Suraje
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Coupled ocean/atmosphere general circulation models (OA/GCMs) have been instrumental in showing the need for global action to curb the anthropogenic emissions that cause climate change. It may be contested, however, that these tools have been less helpful in informing how to adapt at regional and local scales (Schiermeier, 2007). Given the legacy of past emissions and the prospect of unavoidable climate change, the case for committing more financial and technical resources to adaptation is gaining ground (UNDP, 2007; Parry et al., 2009). This poses a challenging question: how can we ensure that adaptation measures realize societal benefits now, and over coming decades, despite uncertainty about climate variability and change?

This paper begins by comparing two different approaches to climate risk assessment in adaptation planning. We then describe a framework for robust adaptation decision-making that departs from traditional ‘predict and provide’ methods. We draw upon examples from the water sectors of developing and developed countries as evidence of how significant progress can be made in the majority of cases without climate change projections. Our views are also shaped by recent experiences of supporting adaptation in practice.


Wilby, R. L., and S. Dessai. 2010. Robust adaptation to climate change. Weather 65:180–185.