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Pathfinder interactive decision tree - click any node to select it


The PROVIA / MEDIATION Adaptation Pathfinder provides interactive access to methodological guidance on assessing climate change vulnerability, impacts and adaptation (VIA) as well as on implementing, monitoring and evaluating adaptation. This encompasses a wide range of approaches and while many previous guidances have focused on particular approaches, this guidance integrates the diversity of approaches into a coherent framework. We thereby emphasise the diversity of adaptation challenges considered as well as the diversity of approaches and methods needed.

Another innovative feature is that this pathfinder provides guidance on which approaches and methods are salient for which kind of adaptation challenge. In order to select appropriate methods for VIA, a series of methodological choices must be made and this guidance presents criteria and decision-trees that guide the reader through these choices. Note that the decision trees provide guidance through the methodological choices of selecting methods, and not through the adaptation decision themselves. When appropriate methods have been identified, further guidance is provided on applying the specific methods.

Entry point

Adaptation situation:
  • Climate change is a concern and you are wondering whether and how to adapt.

Five general stages

We organize the methodological choices according to five general stages of what we call the adaptation learning cycle, which are i) identifying vulnerability and impacts; ii) identifying adaptation measures; iii) appraising adaptation options; iv) planning and implementing adaptation; and v) monitoring and evaluation. Note that this is an idealized model of problemsolving or decision-making and that this does not imply that "real-world" adaptation processes are or need to be linear, following these steps. Rather, real-world adaptation is messy and not a clean cycle. Acknowledging this, the guidance provides multiple entry points, highlighted in the form of green boxes, which allows the reader to enter at various stages or substages of the process.

Note that we consider methods for assessing vulnerability and impacts only insofar as they are embedded into the wider picture of advancing adaptation. This means that impact assessment carried out for other purposes such as setting mitigation targets is not considered.

Note also that vulnerability is a contested concept and as such not a useful one for giving precise methodological guidance. Assessing vulnerability might mean anything from projecting impacts to analysing institutions. In order to circumvent this confusion, we attempt to use the concept as little as possible. When we do use the concept of vulnerability, we use it in an intuitive sense without attempting to give it a precise meaning.

What this pathfinder is not

This is a guidance and not a guideline. Assessing VIA and implementing adaptation is complex and many of the tasks involved need to be carried out by experts. There are no panaceas and this document will not give a comprehensive answer to all issues involved. The decision trees we present are meant to be indicative without prescribing that the methods identified are the only valid ones. The aim of the document is to structure the widely diverse activities that make up VIA, and to provide a coherent and integrated structure for addressing them. See also the pathfinder's context section for a more comprehensive description of the existing guidances and diverse framings of vulnerability, impacts and adaptation.

While some aspects of VIA are specific to sectors, regions and hazards, this document does not provide sector or regionally specific information. The current state of VIA knowledge for specific regions, sectors and issues is extensively reviewed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) (Parry et al., 2007). An updated Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) is currently in preparation. This document instead focuses on generic methodological guidance applicable across sectors, regions and hazards for addressing VIA.

How does the pathfinder differ from previous guidance on VIA?

This guidance brings together insights generated from very different perspectives on adaptation into one coherent framework. A diversity of methods is available, but there is little guidance on which method is appropriate in a given situation. There is a lot of fragmented thinking about VIA and this documents attempts to bring this together in a complementary way. Existing guidance focuses on particular aspects of VIA. The IPCC technical guidelines focus primarily on impacts, risk management frameworks on (formal) decision making, community-based guidelines on building adaptive capacity. There is no comprehensive guidance that includes all of these perspectives. This guidance integrates these different approaches through the decision trees embedded in each of the general stages of adaptation.

Recent literature has emphasised the need to both recognise and overcome barriers to adaptation (Adger et al., 2009; Moser and Ekstrom, 2010). This document goes beyond identifying barriers by offering guidance on the selection and application of methods appropriate to overcoming barriers. This document guides the reader to an identification of barriers to action and to the research methods to better understand a barrier. Once a sufficient understanding is reached, guidance is offered for the selection and application of implementation methods to overcome it.

Who should use this?

Generally, the pathfinder is targeted at professionals such as researchers, consultants, policy analysts and sectoral planners who have some prior knowledge on VIA. This document should also be of use to those leading or initiating planned and collective adaptation, such as community based organisations or NGOs. Some of the material presented is technical and requires experience in the VIA field.

Where should one start reading?

The pathfinder provides multiple entry points. At the beginning of the subsections you will find boxes labeled entry-point that allow you to check whether you enter at the right point.

If you are interested in guidance on how to approach VIA and adaptation practice in general, then you should read this introductory section in order to understand the basic concepts around which this guidance is structured. Next, you can move on to explore the pathfinder. It is structured around the 5 general stages of the adaptation cycle, and the entry points help the reader to identify the most relevant section.

If you are interested in the particular technical details of a method or tool you can jump directly into the respective subsection of the Toolbox. The links between the identification of a task in the pathfnder and the application of a method in the Toolbox are explicitly made in the decision trees (and vice versa), thus it is not necessary to read the sections sequentially.