Uncertainty about how much the climate is changing should not be an excuse to delay preparing for the impacts of such changes, British climate researchers say.
Writing in Nature Climate Change, experts at the University of Oxford and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research urge timely assessment of how much adaptation to climate change is sufficient by balancing the risk of climate change against the cost of adaptation.
"Some impacts of climate change are now inevitable, so it is widely agreed that we must adapt," Tyndall researcher Robert Nicholls said. "But selecting and funding adaptation remains a challenge."
Adaptation decisions need to be considered across a variety of different interpretations of risk, not just a single answer, the researchers said.
For instance, they said, adapting to sea-level rises and flooding from climate change include the upfront expenses of upgrading infrastructure, installing early-warning systems and effective organizations, as well as the costs of reducing risk, such as not building on flood plains.
"Like all complex problems several perspectives are needed and any single answer would misrepresent the uncertainty, but let us not let paralysis by analysis be an obstacle to action on adaptation," Jim Hall of Oxford University said.