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

United Kingdom Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP) Climate Adaptation: Risk, Uncertainty and Decision Making

The report proposes a step-wise approach to vulnerability and adaptation assessment in a risk uncertainty decision-making framework.

The framework and guidance aim to help decision-makers and their advisors in identifying important risk factors and to describe the uncertainty associated with each. It aims to help them judge the significance of the climate change risk compared to the other risks they face, so they can work out what adaptation measures are most appropriate. There are questions for the decision maker to apply at each stage, and tools that can be used.The report identifies methods and techniques for risk assessment and forecasting, options appraisal and decision analysis. There are eight stages in the framework:

  1. Identify problem and objectives;
  2. Establish decision making criteria;
  3. Assess risk;
  4. Identify options;
  5. Appraise options;
  6. Make decision;
  7. Implement decision,monitor, evaluate and review.

It prescribes a circular process in which feedback and iteration are encouraged, and emphasizes a sequential implementation of adaptation measures.

Appropriate Use

The UKCIP framework is applicable to any decision that is likely to be influenced by climate or made in specific response to climate, barring those related to mitigation. Diverse applications are possible.

The methodology is particularly relevant to decision makers:

  1. Who are responsible for areas or sectors that are sensitive to climate change;
  2. Who are responsible for managing the consequences of present day variability in weather or climate;
  3. Whose decisions could be vulnerable to assumptions about the risks associated with future climate;
  4. Who are responsible for commissioning or overseeing technical assessments of climate change vulnerability, impacts and associated adaptation options;
  5. Who need to address the robustness of a proposed decision to assumptions associated with the nature of the future climate.
Scope All regions, all sectors. Written from the UK perspective but applicable internationally.
Key Output Preferred adaptation options (especially no regret and low regret options) based on evaluation criteria and information regarding optimal timing and extent of implementation. Feedback based on monitoring, evaluation, and review from the implementation of these options is an important output, and becomes a key input in the iterative process.
Key Input Decision-makers’ objectives, benchmark levels of climate risk, multiple climate and non-climate scenarios and feedback from already implemented adaptations.
Ease of Use Depends on specific application
Training Required Depends on user familiarity with prescribed tools. It is likely that some training is required to complete the eight steps.
Training Available No formal training currently offered, but UKCIP Technical Report provides fairly detailed instruction.
Computer Requirements No explicit requirements for employing framework, though use of some associated tools will require software (see Appendix 4 of UKCIP Technical Report).
Documentation Willows, R.I. and R.K. Connell. (eds.). 2003. Climate Adaptation: Risk, Uncertainty and Decision-Making. UKCIP Technical Report. UKCIP, Oxford.
  1. Scoping study for the Isle of Man ( The study used the Risk, Uncertainty and decision-making framework to investigate projected impacts of climate change impacts across key sectors for the Island.
  2. Climate proofing rural resource protection policies and strategies in Wales ( - this is a link to the Environment Agency's publications catalogue).The study used the framework to investigate how robust rural resource protection policies and strategies are in the face of a changing climate.
  3. Defra (Global Atmospheres Division) Climate change impacts and adaptation: Cross-regional research programme. Topic C: Water (pdf-icon Study with the aim of aim of developing practical guidance on how to manage water resources in a changing climate.
Contacts for Framework, Documentation, Technical Assistance

Cost Technical report is available free of charge from the UKCIP website (

Branch project (pdf-icon,

ESPACE decision testing tool (pdf-icon,

City of London Adaptation strategy  (pdf-icon