Ramm TD, White CJ, Chan A, Watson CS (2017). A review of decision analysis methods used in long-term coastal adaptation studies in Australia. Climate Risk Management. DOI https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.crm.2017.06.005
Rising sea levels have the potential to alter coastal flooding regimes around the world and local governments are beginning to consider how to manage uncertain coastal change. In doing so, there is increasing recognition that such change is deeply uncertain and unable to be reliably described with probabilities or a small number of scenarios. Characteristics of methodologies applied in Australian practice to evaluate long-term coastal adaptation options are reviewed and benchmarked against two state-of-the-art international methods suited for conditions of uncertainty (Robust Decision Making and Dynamic Adaptive Policy Pathways). Seven out of the ten Australian case studies assumed the uncertain parameters, such as sea level rise, could be described deterministically or stochastically when identifying risk and evaluating adaptation options across multi-decadal periods. This basis is not considered sophisticated enough for long-term decision-making, implying that Australian practice needs to increase the use of scenarios to explore a much larger uncertainty space when assessing the performance of adaptation options. Two Australian case studies mapped flexible adaptation pathways to manage uncertainty, and there remains an opportunity to incorporate quantitative methodologies to support the identification of risk thresholds. The contextual framing of risk, including the approach taken to identify risk (top-down or bottom-up) and treatment of uncertain parameters, were found to be fundamental characteristics that influenced the methodology selected to evaluate adaptation options. The small sample of case studies available suggests that long-term coastal adaptation in Australian is in its infancy and there is a timely opportunity to guide local government towards robust methodologies for developing long-term coastal adaptation plans.