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Reviewing tools that use a bottom-up approach & recommendations

Using a series of criteria of analysis, this review aims at assessing the conditions of applicability of tools that support adaptation decision-making using a bottom-up approach.

Reviewing tools that use a “bottom-up” approach

This review builds on several reviews of adaptation tools conducted in recent years (UNDP 2005, Basic 2007, Dickinson 2007, Garg et al. 2007, Kurukulasuriya 2010, the Sustainability A-TEST project, the ADAM Digital Compendium etc). Using a series of criteria of analysis, this review aims at assessing the conditions of applicability of tools that support adaptation decision-making using a bottom-up approach. These criteria relate to key considerations that have been identified as important in research on dynamic vulnerability and adaptation (Downing et al. 2005). The criteria and questions used to analyze adaptation tools in this review are described in the table below.

Download table here

The review involved a small sample of tools. These tools have been applied in both developing and industrialized nations and include:

  1. Business Area Climate Impacts Assessment Tool (BACLIAT)
  2. Novel approach to imprecise assessment and decision environments (NAIADE) / Social Multi-criteria Evaluation (SMCE) method
  3. UKCIP Adaptation Wizard
  4. Performance Acceleration through Capacity-Building Tool (PACT) [Note: this tool has now been superseeded by CaDD]
  5. Climate Change Impacts and Spatial Planning Decision Support Guidance (ESPACE)
  6. Community-based Risk Screening Tool – Adaptation & Livelihoods (CRiSTAL)
  7. Opportunities and Risks of Climate Change and Disasters (ORCHID)
  8. ADAM Digital Compendium (Adaptation Catalogue)

The table below illustrates how well these tools address the different criteria considered for the review of conditions of applicability. From the table, you can see that while some tools are better at covering institutional change processes, they may not incorporate decision-making methods or economic analysis, while those that cover more formal decision making and economic analysis omit the analysis of adaptive capacity. Other significant gaps in current tools and approaches appear to be the analysis of cross-sectoral interactions and the costs of adaptation for different groups of actors. As not all tools are appropriate for all situations, this may imply the need for better guides to help the user select the appropriate combination of tools to use at the different stages of the climate adaptation planning and implementation process.

Conditions of Applicability

Conditions of applicability can be assessed looking at them from three lenses: Goals, Sectors, and Analytical Scope of adaptation decision tools. These entry points or lenses can be a helpful way of exploring the tools that have been applied in a situation similar to yours and can help you select a tool that is relevant to your particular context and needs. You can either select one of the entry points, or navigate through all of them. Case studies are provided in each focus point to illustrate the applicability of several tools under different circumstances.


  • (1) There is a need for tools to be vulnerability- and not climate-driven to address the multiple stressor context within which adaptation policy will need to focus if is to be effective.
  • (2) There is a proliferation of tools and methods in the climate change field, but there is a need for increased emphasis on process-based decision making and institutional capacity building.
  • (3) Case studies are a valuable means to spread information and to demonstrate how tools have been applied and more examples of ‘good practice’ are needed.
  • (4) There is a trend that is beginning to move towards increased monitoring and evaluation processes, which also facilitates the identification of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ practice.
  • (5) Though some tools incorporate an analysis of multiple stressors to some extent, this is often not holistic enough to balance the emphasis on climate data and climate impacts.
  • (6) There is increasing consensus for harmonized multiple tool development.
  • (7) Many tools appear to be sector and scale dependent and while there are many case-based examples for water, land, and to some extent coasts, examples of tool use in other sectors are more poorly represented; e.g. in health, ecosystems, tourism and so on.
  • (8) Linking local and regional action and inter-agency coordination remains a key need.
  • (9) There appears to be a lack of actual adaptation decision-making tools and more tools for project screening to ensure that adaptation is fully considered in climate change analyses.
  • (10) In relation to this, the analysis of cross-sectoral and cross-scale interactions must attract more attention in tool development.
  • (11) Methods for assessing the economic implications of adaptation must be more widely developed and integrated within other tools, particularly participatory tools such as CRiSTAL and PACT.
  • (12) Identifying different individual ‘user journeys’ will be important for tailoring guidance on how to approach multiple climate adaptation tools.
  • (13) Different user entry points will be needed to cater for different stakeholders who are also at different stages of the climate adaptation process.
  • (14) The lack of holistic decision- as opposed to project-screening tools implies better tools need to be developed to actually support decision-making. The first step for this is to learn lesson from existing projects. This requires a mechanism for sharing ‘good’ and ‘bad’ practice.
  • (15) Creating more participatory tools which address all the conditions of applicability reviewed here also introduces the problem of subjectivity and bias. However, this should not excuse their exclusion and instead transparency in the process of using tool and introducing as much sensitivity analysis and monitoring and evaluation as possible can help to reduce this bias.

Review of Adaptation Decision Tools

Introduction: Reviewing of adaptation decision tools



UKCIP Adaptation Wizard

PACT (Note: this tool has been superseeded by CaDD)





Conditions of Applicability



Analytical scope

Case Studies

Goals-oriented lens

Sector-oriented lens

Analytical scope lens

Related resources

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