result of social changes. The research would identify opportunities for policy changes that might reduce the likelihood of catastrophic outcomes or increase the ability of human activities and groups to benefit from expected climate variations and from forecasts of them. In conjunction with research on coping strategies, this research would make it possible to estimate the future benefits of climate forecasts in the context of expected future social conditions.
To estimate and increase the value of climate forecasts to society, it is necessary to understand the current coping systems available to groups and sectors of society. Coping mechanisms for dealing with climate variability are both formal and informal and range from individual behaviors to national policy. Some coping systems will enhance the benefits from forecasts, whereas the limited flexibility of others may constrain the ability to take advantage of the information. Research should be conducted on how improved forecasts may alter currently effective coping strategies (e.g., how better forecasts might change the products of the plant breeding industry, the use of insurance by farmers and other vulnerable actors, and the operation of the insurance and industry and government relief programs). Research should also be conducted on the public policies and institutional mechanisms that affect coping strategies (e.g., government farm subsidies) to gain understanding of how well they serve to mitigate the negative effects of climate variations and how they might serve best in an environment of improved forecast skill. Research should also explore issues of access to coping strategies that might benefit particular groups. It should address the ways the usefulness and value of forecasts may depend on changes in coping systems as a result of such forces as population changes, migration, economic development, and political changes, as well as the potential for modifying coping systems so as to make forecasts more valuable.
A variety of modeling strategies and discussion-based qualitative methods is available for estimating these effects, and there is a place for many of them given the current state of knowledge. Some methods may be more accurate or more useful for certain purposes, and other methods for other purposes. Some of the research on this question should examine