Are European decision-makers preparing for high-end climate change?

16:15 Wednesday 29 May

SS031 • OC183

Room S6


Tiago Capela Lourenço (Portugal) 1; Adis Dzebo (Sweden) 2; Henrik Carlsen (Sweden) 2; Miriam Mcmillan (Australia) 3; Linda Juhász-Horváth (Hungary) 4; Laszlo Pinter (Hungary) 4

1 - Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Modelling group (CCIAM-cE3c), University of Lisbon, Portugal; 2 - Stockholm Environment Institute, Stockholm, Sweden; 3 - Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra, Australia; 4 - Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary

Despite the Paris Agreement target of holding global temperature increases 1.5 to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, high-end climate change (HECC) scenarios going beyond those levels and even beyond 4°C are becoming progressively more plausible. HECC may imply increasing climate variability and extremes as well as the triggering of tipping points, posing further difficulties for adaptation.

This communication presents the outcomes of four European case studies from the FP7 IMPRESSIONS project (Impacts and Risks from High-End Scenarios: Strategies for Innovative Solutions). The IMPRESSIONS project modelled and analysed the consequences of HECC for Europe and multiple national, regional and local contexts. Additionally it co-produced a set of potential pathways and strategies targeting adaptation and mitigation responses to the impacts of HECC scenarios. The four case studies presented here (EU, Hungary, Portugal, and Scotland) explore the individual and institutional conditions, and the information used to underpin adaptation decision-making in the context of HECC.

This work focused on understanding (a) whether HECC scenarios are used in current adaptation-related decision-making processes; (b) the role of uncertainty and how climate and non-climate information is used (or not); and (c) the information types (including socio-economic drivers) commonly used and their limitations in relation to HECC scenarios. To collect empirical data about decision-making and respective information and support needs, 53 in-depth face-to-face semi-structured interviews with 61 decision-makers were conducted at various locations across all four case studies.

The interviews focused on current decision-making processes and how these may need to change in relation to HECC scenarios. Personal perspectives were recorded and transcribed, and the content was analysed inductively. Results show that European decision-makers perceive HECC as having a low probability or distant occurrence and do not routinely account for HECC scenarios within existing climate actions. Decision-makers also perceive non-climate drivers as at least as important, in many cases more important, than climate change alone. Whilst more information about the implications of particular sectoral and cross-sectoral impacts is needed, climate change uncertainty is not a significant barrier to decision-making. Further understanding of individual and institutional challenges brought about by the ‘squeeze’ between adapting to HECC scenarios or to lower levels of temperature change (1.5 to 2°C as agreed in Paris) is essential to better contextualise the use of climate change information in Europe.