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Informing Decisions in a Changing Climate
revisiting of choices to inform mitigation and adaptation policies as they are implemented. Some decisions need to be made immediately, while others are set on the horizon as decision-making frameworks are devised, climate indicators tracked, and technologies and policies tested.
What Worked and What Did Not
The New York Metropolitan Region can be considered a test of decision support processes for climate change since it has been addressing the issue in a variety of ways for about a decade. Such processes appeared to be more effective when there was active and open engagement among regional decision makers and climate change experts from a range of disciplines, including physical, biological, and social science. Creating an environment of mutual learning, respect, courtesy, and trust was also important to effective outcomes, with balanced contributions from both the decision makers and the experts. For the most part, these interactions were then able to guide the production of decision support products that were salient, credible, and legitimate.
For example, the MEC explicitly created a partnership with representatives from institutions responsible for managing key sectors and services (see below). The stakeholders from the transportation, water, health, and energy sectors (among others) and climate change expert partners collaborated on developing assessment questions, provided ongoing feedback throughout the entire process, reviewed products, and helped to shape key conclusions and messages arising from the assessment.
Of course, differences among stakeholders coming from the public sector and experts from research institutions did arise, sometimes as a result of differing constraints in terms of providing open access to data. Another challenge for the process was that social and political processes beyond the influence of those directly involved sometimes determined whether and how the information was used effectively.
At the community level, community involvement was and is a key aspect of the decision environment in New York City, since there are numerous activist groups focused on environmental justice and urban ecology. For PlaNYC, in which responding to climate change plays a central role, the community was involved in the creation of PlaNYC through website interactions and through town hall, neighborhood, and advocacy organization meetings. However, these early interactions were limited by time and opportunity. The ongoing engagement of communities with climate change adaptation is a specific focus on PlaNYC, with a neighborhood-based education effort planned for 40 communities.
Finally, a key element to successful “mainstreaming” of climate change in the region could be termed buy-in from the top. For example, the ground-