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Adaptation Decision-making Tools Guide

An introduction to the adaptation decision-making tools

Purpose of this guide

This user guide will give you an introduction to the subject of adaptation decision-making tools. It is intended for the newcomer to this area. At the bottom of the page we have provided links to more advanced topics. This is quite a short guide which points to relevant information available on weADAPT and elsewhere, above all providing readers with a structured way to receive the information they need to get quickly familiar with the subject. In the process of reading this we hope you will also learn more about the weAdapt collaboration, and to find out how you could benefit from joining us.


Adaptation decision-making can be informed by various tools, methods and approaches. These include participatory as well as expert-based approaches. The use of a (computerised) decision support system (DSS) is a means for a policy analyst or planner to compare different possible interventions, although the actual model and many of its parameters/data sets may not necessarily be accessible. Nevertheless, an overly ‘technical’ analysis of the problem may not be required.

An important principle is that there is no one method, approach or tool that suits all circumstances of adaptation decision-making. Adaptation methods, in other words, have conditions of applicability. This is often overlooked in practice. A familiar tool or favourite method will always seem to be attractive. Recent research in the Mediation project aims to connect the context of the adaptation problem to the appropriate choice of method. It highlights the importance of conditions of applicability of tools when adaptation takes place at different levels (for example local vs. wider-scales) or is situated in different spheres (for example private vs. public adaptation).

For most adaptation problems different knowledges may be valid as well as multiple worldviews and the preferences of stakeholders affected by the decision. The specification of the problem and the available ‘inputs’ to the decision process should inform the choice of method.

Reading list

This user guide does not make any assumptions about the decision context which should shape the choice of a particular ADM tool, nor about the background or preferences of the person or persons who will apply it. Therefore, a good general entry point for a potential user would be the review of ADM tools. There are then many other pages of interest.

1) The ADx tool can be used to select, apply and compare different ADM methods for analysing alternative adaptation options. The concept of the tool relates to uncertainty in decision-making and to robust approaches, and we (SEI and partners) are currently testing the prototype hoping to draw lessons about the conditions of applicability of its component ADM methods.

  • The ADx conceptual framework and toolkit description, published as a ‘foundation paper’ in 2008 as a CIRCE project deliverable can be reached here.

2) Elimination by aspect and rule based decision making documents the KnETs method for deriving decision rules (if-then rules) to enhance our understanding of data and can also provide input for agent based models.

3) Learning by example explores different mechanisms by which learning (as a prerequisite to adaptation) can occur, and shows how these learning modes might be suited to different types of decision making.

4) The Climate Information Portal (CIP) is a web-based service to provide access to climate data and climate change projections to support adaptation decision-making. Further information on the subject of using climate information can be found on the related weADAPT initiative here.

Mediation Briefing Note series

The Mediation project has produced a series of technical briefing notes that address the use, comparison and development of tools for adaptation decision making.

Please visit the landing page of the adaptation decision-making initiative for more links to relevant projects and persons working in this area

Related resources

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