National Climate Change Risk Assessments to inform adaptation policy priorities and environmental sustainability outcomes: a knowledge systems perspective

Iain Brown (Lead / Corresponding author), Pam Berry

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Abstract

National Climate Change Risk Assessments (CCRAs) have a key role in informing priorities for adaptation policy but face significant challenges due to multiple facets of risk and adaptation. Issues are especially pronounced for meeting goals of environmental sustainability due to the complex dynamics of socio-ecological systems. In practice, a CCRA can therefore differ from its original conceptual blueprint. These challenges are explored from a knowledge systems perspective, focusing on the role of stakeholders/policymakers, risk descriptors, methods, evidence sources, and scientists. A UK case study evaluates recent developments (CCRA3) including identification of policy urgency through adaptation shortfalls and its application to the natural environment. Important science-policy issues are also highlighted regarding inclusion of opportunities, systemic risks, residual risks, and risk tolerance. A general conclusion is that CCRAs inevitably leave open questions which lead back to their evolving role in the science-policy interface. A knowledge systems perspective identifies CCRAs as open, adaptive, reflexive processes that help redefine interpretations of risk and adaptation, rather than just providing a specific policy-relevant product. This perspective identifies scope for progressive refinement of CCRAs to enhance collective science-policy adaptive capacity whilst also engaging wider society. For environmental sustainability, this open process can be used to iteratively redefine robust future pathways and system reference conditions that also better reflect evolving societal perceptions and tolerance on sustainability risk in the face of climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number13
Number of pages24
JournalClimatic Change
Volume175
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Dec 2022

Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Knowledge systems
  • National Adaptation Plans
  • National Climate Change Risk Assessments

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