As the world recognises the need to adapt to climate change, we've identified leading practices to help apply adaptation actions.

Need help navigating the complex cycle of climate change adaptation?

As the world recognises the need to adapt to climate change, diverse adaptation planning and risk assessment guides have emerged.

A new journal paper looks to simplify the journey to action for organisations considering climate adaptation for the first time.

Published in Climate Risk Management, the paper sharpens advice about how to assess climate change risks and guide adaptation.

A rough beach with a city on the horizon.
The world is starting to recognise the need to adapt to climate change. Therefore different approaches have been identified to help adaptation planning and risk assessment.

Navigating the climate adaptation journey

Figuring out how to adapt to climate change is hard, especially if you are just starting on the journey.

And the ways our businesses and communities need to adapt are different.

So, lead author and CSIRO Honorary Fellow, Dr Mark Stafford Smith, and his team has worked through the different approaches. These will help the adaptation researchers and practitioners who assess climate change risks and guide adaptation.

“This actually helps researchers identify what approaches to use at different stages in peoples’ adaptation journey,” Mark says.

This review identifies leading practice around a basic set of six core steps in an adaptation cycle, which could be the starting point for any new guide, to better apply adaption actions.

The steps are simple:

  1. Setting the scope (Scope)
  2. Creating scenarios (Envision)
  3. Identifying risks and opportunities (Identify)
  4. Prioritising options to address risks and capture opportunities (Prioritise)
  5. Taking action to adapt as well as monitor (Implement)
  6. Sharing, learning and adjusting course as needed (Evaluate)

Exploring unknown futures

But that is the easy part.

“Adapting to climate change involves some surprisingly tough concepts,” Mark says.

“This includes dealing with uncertain futures, identifying things that need to be done now, even though their benefits will only turn up later, and handling complexity.

“So, people new to thinking about it need much simpler approaches than experts, yet most advice is more or less one-size-fits-all.”

In this paper, the researchers wanted to think about how to have easier entry points to start thinking about it.

Man wearing a cap looking at an iPad. The photo is taken looking up from a green crop field.
We are working in partnership with governments, industry, and the community to help Australia better prepare for and adapt to a changing climate. Image: Shutterstock.

Dealing with differences

“Different users need to think about adaptation very differently, according to their circumstances,” Mark says.

“In particular, people new to thinking about adaptation need help to start to engage with it simply, while expert users potentially need lots of details.”

The author team analysed many guides used around the globe. They showed the same broad steps of planning how to adapt applied, but it was not adjustable for different needs.

“While there is a fairly standard set of steps to adapting to climate change, how these are carried out really needs adjusting,” Mark says.

“For example, you need to consider whether you’re doing an initial scan of the risks faced by a government department, a community or even an individual, and a detailed assessment for a major infrastructure project.”


  1. In trying to avoid an exponential rise in greenhouse gases toward catastrophic levels, one option exists, namely urgent attempts at drawing down at least part of the CO₂ concentration of the atmosphere. The $trillions of dollars required, constituting the “Price of the Earth”, may not exceed the $trillion dollars military expenses spent by the world over the last 70 years, including nuclear missile fleets which constitute a separate threat for life on Earth.

  2. Needs to become s.o.p. for almost every decision we make, unfortunately.

What do you think?

We love hearing from you, but we have a few guidelines.