Decision making under uncertainty

Media type: 
Danielle Verdon-Kidd
Anthony Kiem
Emma Austin
University of Newcastle
New South Wales


This study identified factors that contribute to the gap between what climate science can currently provide and what decision makers need to make robust adaption decisions about climate related risks.

There is a recognised gap between what climate science can currently provide and what end users of that information require in order to make robust adaption decisions about their climate related risks. This study identified a number of factors that contribute to the gap via a literature review, online survey, workshop and focus group. These included uncertainty in climate information, misunderstanding or misuse of key terminology, poor communication and/or packaging of the climate science information and the lack of appropriate decision support tools that adequately account for uncertainty (and are capable of dealing with non-climatic influences on decision making). 

In order to help bridge the gap it is recommended that communication and packaging of climate information be improved via a formalised ‘knowledge broker’ program. This would act as a link between end users and science providers in order to translate and transform climate information such that it is useful for end users and to clarify for science providers what the specific needs of end users are. In addition, the knowledge broker would play a key role in the education of end users about uncertainties in climate science, the limitations of the currently available information and likely advances in the next five to ten years.

It is also suggested that a ‘terms of reference’ for key climate change related words be developed and agreed upon by both climate science providers and end users to reduce the misuse of terminology and confusion that arises from that. Further, it is recommended that additional research be conducted into natural variability and baseline risk to provide a realistic background on which climate change projections and associated uncertainty are assessed. Finally, new tools and methods to integrate between projections and decision making (e.g. decision support tools) that deal explicitly with uncertainty need to be developed and implemented within the adaptation community. While it is unrealistic to expect that we can ever close the gap, it is clear that there are opportunities to start bridging the gap (or at least improve people’s awareness of the gap).

Please cite the report as:
Verdon-Kidd, DC, Kiem, AS & Austin, EK 2013, Decision making under uncertainty: Bridging the gap between end user needs and climate science capability, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast, 116 pp.