Decision-making for climate change adaptation: a systems thinking approach

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Kambiz Maani
The University of Queensland


The impacts of climate change are exacerbated by inefficient adaptation and mitigation decision making, due to the complexity of the decision-making environment. As a consequence, there is no single approach to planning and decision making. Climate change adaptation falls squarely in the domain of wicked problems that require collective learning and new modes of decision making and collaboration.

Decision making is often perceived and practiced as a linear activity, from identification of a problem to search for alternative solutions, followed by decision making and implementation. Systems Thinking and Adaptive Management, in contrast, tend to use these steps in a cyclical fashion (i.e., a feedback system). Systems Thinking, in addition, views a problem not in isolation but as part of a larger system or context. Feedback is a key concept in Systems Thinking which is formally recognised and scientifically modelled.

This report summarises Systems Thinking tools for climate change adaptation. These tools can be used individually or in combination to provide integrative, participatory and synergistic approaches to climate change initiatives, policy design and adaptation. For users' convenience, a Systems Thinking Tool Selection Chart is provided as a quick guide for tool selection.

Please cite this report as:
Maani, K 2013, Decision-making for climate change adaptation: A systems thinking approach, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast, 66 pp.

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