The impacts of climate change are clear to see: the sea level is rising and more extreme precipitation patterns and river levels are causing many casualties and extensive damage throughout the world. Global agreements to limit global warming were made in Paris in 2015. Significant funding has been earmarked to help developing countries with adaptation to climate change because, despite the agreements, the process of change will continue to a certain extent for the rest of the century. Governments and various sectors of the economy know that this needs to be kept in mind. But how can you do that in a context of uncertainty about change, possibly in the distant future? Do we need to make changes to existing practices in water management and use, or protection against storms and floods, or should we be introducing entirely new solutions? How can we be sure that the decisions and investments made are the right ones? The projects in which Deltares is involved as part of the ‘climate adaptation’ programme use cases from practice throughout the world. The aim is develop knowledge and tools that support decision-making by explicitly including climate change and other uncertainties in the analysis.
From problem to solution
There are several ways of looking at adaptation: as a separate process (this often involves drawing up adaptation plans) or as part of other developments and investment (for example in the context of urban expansion, infrastructure, agriculture, energy supplies and tourism). In all cases, we start off with the question of whether climate change actually requires a change of strategy. In this context, Deltares supplies scenario analyses, stress testing, and tipping-point analyses that draw extensively on models and spatial information in, for example, climate atlases on touch tables. Depending on the urgency and clarity of the risks that are identified, a range of strategies may be adopted: wait until opportunities to intervene emerge, immediate robust investments, or the launch of ‘low-regret’ measures that will allow flexibility in the more distant future. Deltares can provide a picture of the effectiveness, and the costs and benefits, of the various options in the short and long terms. Tools such as the adaptation paths generator and evaluator have been developed – and development continues – to support the process of analysis required for this purpose.