Making the intangible manageable ‐ is there a formula to merge research findings with local governance focusing on climate change adaptation?

Lotta Andersson

The  Swedish  National  Knowledge  Centre  for  Climate  Change  Adaptation,  Swedish Meteorological  and  Hydrological Institute, S‐601 76 Norrköping, Sweden

The need to adapt to climate variability is not a new challenge.  However, with a changing climate, there is a need of transformation from planning based on the climate that we have observed to making decisions based on the climate that we can foresee, although with a range of uncertainty.

Adaptation to cope with climate change is still seen by many policy makers as a rather intangible issue to deal with, and many challenges hold back actions at the local level.

Consequently, at the same time as policy makers and responsible staff in municipalities gradually transform into a mind‐set where climate adaptation is seen as an issue that need to be dealt with, implementation of actual actions are often relatively modest.  This has been suggested to be due to that laws and regulations not  are  adapted,  that  roles  and  responsibilities  are  unclear  or  due  to  lack  of  strategies  and  goals  on  all administrative levels. Accessible knowledge‐ and decision support, as well as warning systems have been asked for, as well as outlines of how the costs for adaptation should be distributed among actors and how resources for prioritized measures can be guaranteed.

However, although many decision‐support systems have been developed within research projects, the actual use  of  these  systems  is  very  limited; and mainly  linked  to  cases  when a municipality  has  participated as “stakeholder” in a research project.  When the project is finished, the use of the tools is usually terminated due to lack of perceived relevance or resources.

Also when it comes to the political decisions related to, e.g., laws and regulation or cost‐sharing models, the merging of research findings as guidance to decisions is limited.  Again, factors as perceived relevance, clarity and the lack of involvement of policy makers in the research process are often stated as the reason for this. With  focus  on  tools  for  awareness  rising  and  decision‐support,  this  talk  will  assess  the  possibilities  and challenges  for  research  to  actually  facilitate  local  governance  related  to  adaptation  to  climate  change. However,  the difficulties  of merging  research  finding with local governance  (as well as governance on all levels that eventually have an impact on the local level) are not unique for adaptation to climate change. The  barriers  between  research  and  policy‐making  can  partly  be  attributed  to  how  researchers  are professionally rewarded.   Another obstacle is linked to the fact that many researchers have the perception that if scientifically sound decision‐support systems or other sources of information are made available, they will be implemented as a basis for well‐informed decisions.

To ensure merging between  research and local governance,  there is a need  for  researchers  to  shift  from looking at potential users of results as not so well‐defined groups of “stakeholders” that are to be provided with information or tools, to a true co‐production together with people that have an interest in using project outputs in the long term.

The sphere of action for municipal politicians and officers on the local level is constrained by time and other resources.  Relevance will be linked to level of complexity, correspondence with available resources (time, expertise and funding) and possibility to integrate decision‐support tools or other research outcomes with existing local procedures.

Finally, the possibilities for researchers to make climate adaptation tangible and perceived as relevant among citizens by serious gaming and citizen science will be addressed.