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​Adaptation pathways

Adaptation pathways is a decision-orientated approach which are able to address difficulties in planning for an uncertain future, futures with changing and unpredictable values, preferences and vulnerabilities. Adaptation pathways can help address factors such as spatial and temporal scale effects as well as multiple forms of uncertainty.

Adaptation pathways assists by allowing decisions to be deferred until they are absolutely necessary, the requisite information is developed to enable robust decision making and by allowing the critical decision’s, especially those that maybe conflicted, to be identified and resolved.

The pathways concept focuses “more on the processes of decision making, rather than the outcome; emphasising the adaptive nature of the decision process itself in the face of high uncertainty and inter-temporal complexity”.

The pathways approach sequences possible adaptation decision points and options for particular actions based on interdependencies between uncertainty in the incidence and severity of climate change induced impacts, and the responses required on terms of resourcing, implementation time of adaptation options and the ability to reverse maladaptation. i.e., Adaptation pathways “emphasises the need for flexibility and iterative management of immediate decisions, informed by a strategic vision of the future and a framework to inform future actions based on decision triggers and monitoring.”  (Haasnoot et al., 2013).



Bosomworth et al. (2015) details a “playbook” for adaptation pathways planning for Australian natural resources management. A topology is defined across the degree of scientific uncertainty and the degree of agreement/divergence on the goals which provide four sets of issues ( see figure below). The playbook’s process consists of five steps:

  1. Define the objective and goals,

  2. Analyse the current situation using the four criteria  

    1. Computation issues,

    2. Issues requiring judgement, 

    3. Issues requiring bargaining, and

    4. Issues requiring inspiration;

  3.   Analyse the potential futures of each of the four  issues type using a range of tools

  4.   Develop pathways;

  5.  Ongoing monitoring, evaluation, reporting and learning.


 Typology of Adaption Pathways.jpg
(Source: Bosomworth et al. 2015)



Bosomworth, K., Harwood, A., Leith, P., and Wallis, P. (2015). Adaptation Pathways: a playbook for developing options for climate change adaptation in Natural Resource Management. Southern Slopes Climate Change Adaptation Research Partnership (SCARP): RMIT University, University of Tasmania, and Monash University.

Haasnoot, M., Kwakkel, J. H., Walker, W. E., & ter Maat, J. (2013). Dynamic adaptive policy pathways: a method for crafting robust decisions for a deeply uncertain world. Global Environmental Change, 23(2), 485-498.





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