INTRODUCTION: THE CHALLENGE OF ADAPTATION TO CHANGING CONDITIONS
While adaptation to changing circumstances is a phenomenon of all times, climate change has fuelled an interest in approaches and methods to anticipate longer-term change and uncertainty. Actors are looking for ways to navigate between ignoring uncertainties, for example by basing decisions on a single future scenario, and inaction, overwhelmed by uncertainty about the future.
An opening is offered by shifting attention from investing in reducing future uncertainties (better knowing the future) to the question: ‘What can we best do now to achieve our goals, knowing that the future is uncertain?’ This shift will require adjustment of regular planning approaches. Notably, problem analysis will have to include exploring the performance of current management approaches under a range of possible futures. Furthermore, the design and evaluation of options and strategies will have to explicitly account for future uncertainties.
A new approach for adaptation planning, adaptive delta management (ADM), was introduced in the context of the so-called Delta Programme in the Netherlands (van Rhee 2012; Delta Programme Commissioner 2014; Bloemen 2015). Key elements are: to explicitly take future uncertainties into account; to identify adaptation tipping points (Kwadijk et al. 2010; Jeuken & te Linde 2011); to develop adaptation pathways (Haasnoot et al. 2012; Ranger et al. 2013); to include and value flexibility; and to avoid ‘lock-in’ (Delta Programme Commissioner 2014).
In this special issue of Journal of Water and Climate Change we share and reflect on experiences with ADM in Europe and Asia. In particular, the special issue focuses on two central elements of ADM:
the identification of adaptation tipping points by asking under what conditions the performance of the current management approaches drops below a decisive level; and
the construction of adaptation pathways: sets of measures and decisions to be implemented progressively, depending on how the …