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Compendium on methods and tools to evaluate impacts of, and vulnerability and adaptation to, climate change

Policy Exercise

A flexible structured method designed to synthesize and assess knowledge from several relevant fields of science for policy purposes directed toward complex, practical management problems.

Policy exercise techniques provide an interface between scientists, academics, and policy makers. At the heart of the process are scenario writing (“future histories,” emphasizing nonconventional, surprise rich, but still plausible futures) and scenario analyses via the interactive formulation and testing of alternative policies that respond to challenges in the scenario. These scenario based activities typically take place in an organizational setting reflecting the institutional feature of the issues that are addressed.

Appropriate Use Policy exercise can be used to generate adaptation options or evaluate already identified adaptation options, especially in the early phases of regional adaptation studies when there is a strong need to structure the problem or in later phases to determine if sectoral policy responses might support or undermine each other.
Scope All regions, all sectors.
Key Output Scenarios that inform the adaptation decision process and increase understanding of the organizational and institutional setting in which the process is carried out.
Key Input Views and ideas of representatives from key institutions.
Ease of Use Depends on participation of experienced facilitators.
Training Required Little or no training would be required for participants. Facilitators and support staff require specialized training.
Training Available No formal training offered. Sources of assistance in organizing a policy exercise can be obtained from contact list.
Computer Requirements Use of personal computers may be necessary to support the variety of models that the exercise might employ.
Documentation Toth, F.L. 1998. Policy exercises: Objectives and design elements. Simulation and Games 19:235-255.
Toth, F.L. 1998. Policy exercises: Procedures and implementation. Simulation and Games 19:256-276.

Southeast Asia (see References below). The exercises involved senior national-level policy makers and senior analysts exploring policy responses under different climate change and impact scenarios.

Contacts for Framework, Documentation, Technical Assistance

Ferenc Toth

International Atomic Energy Agency, Wagramer Str. 5 P.O. Box 100, A-1400, Vienna, Austria; Tel: +43.1.2600.22787; e-mail:

Cost No cost to obtain documentation and supplementary information. Cost of implementing will depend upon the scope of inquiry.

Brewer, G.D. and M. Shubik. 1979. The War of Game: A Critique of Military Problem Solving. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.

Toth, F.L. and E. Hizsnyik. 2005. Managing the inconceivable: participatory assessments of impacts and responses to extreme climate change. International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. Working Paper FNU74.

Toth, F.L. 1992a. Global change and the cross-cultural transfer of policy games. In Global Interdependence. D. Crookall and K. Arai (eds.). Springer, Tokyo, pp. 208-215.

Toth, F.L. 1992b. Policy implications. In The Potential Socioeconomic Effects of Climate Change in South-East Asia, M.L. Parr, M. Blantran de Rozari, A.L. Chong, and S. Panich (eds.). United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi, Kenya, pp. 109-121.

Toth, F.L. 1992c. Policy responses to climate change in Southeast Asia. In The Regions and Global Warming: Impacts and Response Strategies, J. Schmandt and J. Clarkson (eds.) Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 304-322.

Toth, F.L. 2003. State of the art and future challenges for integrated environmental assessment. Integrated Assessment 4(4):250-264.