Assessing climate change risks to the natural environment to facilitate cross-sectoral adaptation policy

Iain Brown (Lead / Corresponding author)

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    Climate change policy requires prioritization of adaptation actions across many diverse issues. The policy agenda for the natural environment includes not only biodiversity, soils and water, but also associated human benefits through agriculture, forestry, water resources, hazard alleviation, climate regulation and amenity value. To address this broad agenda, the use of comparative risk assessment is investigated with reference to statutory requirements of the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment. Risk prioritization was defined by current adaptation progress relative to risk magnitude and implementation lead times. Use of an ecosystem approach provided insights into risk interactions, but challenges remain in quantifying ecosystem services. For all risks, indirect effects and potential systemic risks were identified from land-use change, responding to both climate and socio-economic drivers, and causing increased competition for land and water resources. Adaptation strategies enhancing natural ecosystem resilience can buffer risks and sustain ecosystem services but require improved cross-sectoral coordination and recognition of dynamic change. To facilitate this, risk assessments need to be reflexive and explicitly assess decision outcomes contingent on their riskiness and adaptability, including required levels of human intervention, influence of uncertainty and ethical dimensions. More national-scale information is also required on adaptation occurring in practice and its efficacy in moderating risks.This article is part of the theme issue 'Advances in risk assessment for climate change adaptation policy'.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number20170297
    Pages (from-to)1-27
    Number of pages27
    JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A - Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences
    Issue number2121
    Early online date30 Apr 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2018


    • adaptation
    • climate change policy
    • ecosystem approach
    • land use
    • natural environment
    • risk assessment


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