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Anticipate Uncertainty When Planning for Climate Change

The only thing certain with climate change is the uncertainty. Not only are climate change impacts exceptionally difficult to predict, but even the causes of climate change — carbon dioxide and methane emissions — are essentially unpredictable.

Uncertainties include:

  • significant variation between the climate-changing impact of high- and low-emissions scenarios;
  • unexpected responses in natural systems, such as feedback loops and tipping points;
  • climate models, which are used to develop predictions for climate change impacts.

Plan for Uncertainty

Because it is impossible to predict future climate change impacts with complete certainty, land trust managers must plan for uncertainty when developing land management plans. Two approaches can be used to plan for uncertainty, either separately or together:

  • Scenario planning, which involves the creation of several potential scenarios that might develop in the future, based upon a set of variables or predictions.
  • Adaptive management, which helps land managers monitor, evaluate and adapt land management practices to changing environmental conditions, such as rising temperatures or earlier snow melt.
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