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Usable Science? The UK Climate Projections 2009 and Decision Support for Adaptation Planning

Publication TypeManual Entry
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsTang, Samuel, and Suraje Dessai
Weather, Climate, and Society

With future changes in climate inevitable, adaptation planning has become a policy priority. A central element in adaptation planning is scientific expertise and knowledge of what the future climate may hold. The UK Climate Projections 2009 (UKCP09) provide climate information designed to help those needing to plan how to adapt to a changing climate. This paper attempts to determine how useful and usable UKCP09 is for adaptation decision-making. The study used a mixed methods approach that includes analysis of adaptation reports, a quantitative survey and semi-structured interviews with key adaptation stakeholders working in the science-policy interface, which included decision-makers, knowledge producers and knowledge translators. The knowledge system criteria was used to assess the credibility, legitimacy and saliency of UKCP09 for each stakeholder group. It emerged that stakeholders perceived UKCP09 to be credible and legitimate due to its sophistication, funding source and the scientific reputation of organizations involved in UKCP09’s development. However, due to inherent complexities of decision-making and a potentially greater diversity in users, UKCP09’s saliency was found to be dependent upon the scientific competence and familiarity of the user(s) in dealing with climate information. An example of this was the use of Bayesian probabilistic projections which improved the credibility and legitimacy of UKCP09’s science but reduced the saliency for decision-making. This research raises the question of whether the tailoring of climate projections is needed to enhance their salience for decision-making while recognizing that it is difficult to balance the three knowledge criteria in the production of usable science.

Citation Key740
Community Notes

"Specifically, for scientific information to be useful and usable, decision-makers must perceive it 'to not only be credible, but also salient and legitimate'"

"When pressed further on the issue during interviews, decision-makers stressed the complexity of UKCP09 and the difficulties of using its raw outputs in decision-making."

"Furthermore this highlights an apparent contradiction amongst decision-makers, who on the one hand complain about the complexity yet on the other hand state it leaves out information they require; thus showing the difficulties in appeasing a range and variety of decision-makers."

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