Developing Dynamic Adaptive Policy Pathways

Fig. 1 An example of an Adaptation Pathways map and a scorecard of pathways’ costs and benefits. In the map, targets begin to be missed after four years. Four options follow from the gray lines of the current plan. Actions A and D should be able to achieve the targets for the next 100 years in all climate scenarios. If Action B is chosen, a tipping point is reached within about five years and another action must be pursued for another ~80 years. If Action C is chosen, a shift to another action will be needed after approximately 85 years. In all other scenarios, the targets will be achieved for the next 100 years (the dashed green line). The colors in the scorecard refer to the actions: A (red), B (orange), C (green), and D (blue).

Arriving at sustainable water management strategies requires working through myriad challenges, including deep uncertainty, rapid system change, a limited knowledge base, chaos and randomness, and unpredictable future stakeholder actions. Dynamic Adaptive Policy Pathways (DAPP) is a method recently developed by RDMlab partners Jan H. Kwakkel and Warren E. Walker of Delft University of Technology, and Deltares researcher Marjolijn Haasnoot, for refining promising policy options from the litany of possible futures that water management may face.

In their August 2014 article in Climatic Change, the authors present a model-driven approach supporting the development of promising adaptation pathways, and illustrate the approach using a hypothetical case. They use robust optimization over uncertainties related to climate change, land use, cause-effect relations, and policy efficacy, to identify the most promising pathways. They generate an ensemble of possible futures and evaluate candidate pathways over this ensemble using an Integrated Assessment Meta Model.

The authors understand ‘most promising’ in terms of the robustness of the performance of the candidate pathways on multiple objectives, and use a multi-objective evolutionary algorithm to find the set of most promising pathways. This results in an adaptation map showing the set of most promising adaptation pathways and options for transferring from one pathway to another. Given the pathways and signposts, decision-makers can make an informed decision on a dynamic adaptive plan in a changing environment that is able to achieve their intended objectives despite the myriad of uncertainties.

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