Rosenzweig pointed out that there is a strong contrast between the urgency expressed by agency program managers seeking help in the short term and longer-term needs. In the short term, managers want help for decision making regarding climate change impacts and adaptation (such as rapid, stakeholder-driven assessments). At the same time, there is a longer-term need to develop in-depth, rigorously tested research on vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation, including model comparisons and large-scale comparative studies. Especially for that longer-term need, the rigor of vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation research needs sharpening, not necessarily through the use of quantitative models, but through enhanced data collection, availability, and analysis, and a spectrum of research methods that can continue to address uncertainties.
One needed focus is on costs and metrics, involving both monetary and nonmonetary social variables. Emerging risk management paradigms frame analyses in terms of vulnerabilities and risk management, in contrast to older paradigms that emphasize impact projection and cost estimation. New methods are emerging for creating risk profiles for groups and locales on both short-term and long-term time scales. The synergies and conflicts between mitigation and adaptation need to be characterized. Finally, the role of vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation research in the future development of new emissions and climate scenarios is unclear. Though some researchers have worked hard to participate in this arena, the outcomes do not yet benefit from full collaboration. It is helpful to invest in those partnerships, but this community of researchers needs to self-organize on broader terms in order to strengthen those research outcomes.
Wilbanks summarized additional challenges to the vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation research community. First, it is difficult to cope with urgent needs for timely assessments while simultaneously strengthening a seriously incomplete research base. The field may need to move on two parallel tracks—with different organizational frameworks but a common base of knowledge and expertise. Second, the possibility that the magnitudes of climate change impacts and adaptation challenges will be greater than previously assumed adds to the importance and urgency of considering possible thresholds and assuring anticipatory monitoring. Third, there is a need to consider climate change impacts and responses in the broader context of sustainability. This consideration needs to include specific development pathways, evolving socioeconomic conditions, multiple stresses, gaps between anticipated and actual human behavior, and associated complexities inherent to the relationships among strategy, policy, and action. Fourth, the existing scholarship on vulnerabilities and risks does not sufficiently fulfill decision makers’ requests for specific