results of which can be expected to affect climate change or to be affected by climate change and its interactions with ecological, economic, and social systems. Choices to mitigate or adapt to climate change are obviously included, but also included are decisions about matters that may be only indirectly related to climate (e.g., changing educational requirements for grades K–12 in ways that may better enable the next generation to deal with climate change challenges). One important implication of this definition deserves special emphasis. Decisions are climate sensitive regardless of whether or not decision makers recognize them as such at the time of decision making. Many decisions and decision-making routines that were well suited to past climatic conditions will be less so under future conditions of climate and climate-society interactions—but not all the affected decision makers may yet realize it. Although decision support can potentially help all climate-affected decision makers get better results, a decision maker who does not yet realize that a decision at hand is climate sensitive will not perceive a need for such support. Thus, one of the challenges of decision support is to identify climate-sensitive decisions that are not being treated as such, help decision makers realize how climate change may affect them, and then support subsequent climate-cognizant decisions.

Decision-Relevant Knowledge (or Information) Knowledge or information is decision relevant if it yields deeper understanding of a choice or if, incorporated in making a choice, it yields better expected results for decision makers and their constituencies than would be achieved if the choice were made without that knowledge or information. We note that decision-relevant information is useful for decisions only when it is also accessible and understandable to decision makers and in a timely manner.

It is important to make explicit that decision-relevant information for climate-related decisions is not only about climate. It may also include information about:

  1. basic characteristics of climate variability and change and the implications of these processes for climate-related decisions and for things people value;

  2. the expected effects of climate change on hydrological, ecological, and other biophysical systems at particular places and times;

  3. the social and economic processes that drive climate change;

  4. the socioeconomic and human-environmental processes that alter the vulnerability of human or ecological systems to climate variability and change (e.g., changes in the numbers and socioeconomic characteristics of people living in vulnerable areas);

  5. the expected effects of climatic processes on human systems taking into account other ongoing environmental, economic, and social

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