Maximizing robustness. When decisions have to be made all at once (for example, whether to build a piece of infrastructure), the risk of making the “wrong” decision can be reduced by selecting robust options—options that maximize the probability of meeting identified goals and desirable outcomes while minimizing the probability of undesirable outcomes under a wide range of plausible future conditions.
Ensuring durability. Many climate-related policies will need to remain in place, albeit in modified form, for many decades in order to achieve their intended goals. This requires mechanisms that can ensure the long-term durability of policies and provide stability for investors and society, while allowing for adaptive adjustments over time to take advantage of new information—a significant challenge for policy and institutional design.
A portfolio of approaches. In the face of complex problems, where surprises are expected and much is at stake, it would be unwise to rely on only one or a small number of actions to “solve” the problem without major side effects. A more robust approach would be to employ a portfolio of actions to increase the chance that at least one will succeed in reducing risk and to provide more options for future decision makers.
Effective communication. An essential component of effective risk management is the communication of risks, including the risks associated with different responses, to all involved stakeholders, including public-, private-, and civic-sector stakeholders as well as expert and lay individuals familiar with, or potentially affected by, the risks at hand.
Inclusive process. Since climate-related risks affect different regions, communities, and stakeholders in different ways and to different degrees, stakeholders should be included in significant roles throughout the process of identifying risks and response options, determining and evaluating what risks and responses are “acceptable” and “unacceptable,” as well as in the communication and management of the risks themselves (NRC, 2008h).
The past several decades of research have yielded a great deal of knowledge about climate change, but there is much still to be learned about both ongoing and future changes and the risks associated with them. Moreover, as decision makers respond to the risks posed by climate change, additional knowledge will be needed to assist them in making well-informed choices. For example, decision makers could use additional information about how the Earth system will respond to future GHG emissions, the range of impacts that could be encountered and the probabilities associated with them, the quantifiable and nonquantifiable risks posed by these changes, the options that can be taken to limit climate change and to reduce vulnerability and increase