Understanding Decision Support for a Changing Climate

People everywhere are making decisions in a changing climate. This map shows the many places where we have gathered insights through interviews, surveys, and planning documents about sea level rise, extreme heat, adaptation planning, and more. See investigations below for more details. NOTE: Additional sea level rise locations not included in this map are the Northern Mariana Islands, Barbados, and Puerto Rico.

Climate change is already affecting every region of the United States, and additional impacts are expected to intensify. These changes motivate bold new decisions and actions. For instance, a sea level rise planner initiates a community conversation about the possibility of retreat; an energy utility explores new risks from drought and wildfire; a transportation planner incorporates future precipitation extremes in highway designs; and a public health officer establishes cooling centers to protect vulnerable populations from extreme heat. 

These are but a few of the multiplying examples of climate change decisions and actions already taking place. In each, climate information has the potential to be one of many types of resources used to support effective responses to climate change. However, improving the many ways climate information can support decisions requires careful attention to both how climate information is produced and translated and the many factors that influence how decisions and actions are pursued in practice across different contexts.

Project Overview

Through a series of research and engagement activities, AGCI is working to navigate the burgeoning and dynamic landscape of climate information supply and demand by focusing on:

Investigations

Successful support of decision-making in a changing climate results from understanding how practitioners and decision-makers use and access climate information, as well as the many other factors (e.g., human resources, financial, political, and legal limitations) that influence their decision-making context. To explore this, we initiated a set of investigations of specific instances where decision-making is (or could be) informed by climate information. We also investigated how climate information is conveyed through online resources and portals.

Across these investigations, we employed a mixed-methods approach (interviews, surveys, and document analysis). We engaged participants from across the United States with additional attention to finding and engaging those that have traditionally not had the resources or capacity to participate fully in adaptation planning and implementation.

This has provided a more holistic understanding of what practitioners are seeking to help them adapt to climate change. Some investigations are complete, others are still in process; click the links below to learn more about each.

Decision Support Framework

To ensure a complete picture of how climate information may support decision-making, we developed a framework for distinguishing between stages of climate change decision-making and recognizing different ways climate information can meaningfully benefit those stages (and society, in general). For this project, we refer to decision-making and action stages identified by the Water Utility Climate Alliance:

These stages correlate to many other decision support and adaptive management frameworks presented in the National Climate Assessment and elsewhere.

To capture the different avenues by which climate information may have an impact, we build upon a research impact framework developed by Meadow and Owen, to specify five types of impact:

When viewed in interaction with each other, these sets of decision-making stages and impact categories offer an expansive way to consider the many ways climate information might support decision-making and action. For instance, as shown in the figure below, sharing sea level rise (SLR) projections at a city planning meeting may build awareness among elected officials and improve their capacity to make sense of climate information, but they may not in that context inform direct action since implementation stages have not yet begun.

Project Team

Kelli M Archie

Aspen Global Change Institute (AGCI)
Research Affiliate

Daniella Hirschfeld

Utah State University
Assistant Professor

Julie Vano

Aspen Global Change Institute (AGCI)
Research Director

James C. Arnott

Aspen Global Change Institute (AGCI)
Executive Director

Emilio Mateo

Aspen Global Change Institute (AGCI)
Climate Science Fellow

Rebecca Rasch

Aspen Global Change Institute (AGCI)
Social Scientist

David Behar

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC)
Climate Program Director

Tom Hope

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Assistant Professor

Maayan Sharon

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Student Research Assistant

Sara Meerow

Arizona State University
Assistant Professor

Ladd Keith

University of Arizona
Assistant Professor

Oriana Chegwidden

CarbonPlan
Research Scientist

Emily Jack-Scott

Aspen Global Change Institute (AGCI)
Program Director

Devan Crane

AGCI
Program Associate

Asa DeHaan

Aspen Global Change Institute (AGCI)
Research Technician

Funder

This effort has been made possible through funding by the NASA Applied Sciences Program.