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Coastal climate hazards and decision-making: introducing a methodology for local decision support

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Monday, 24 January 2011
Coastal climate hazards and decision-making: introducing a methodology for local decision support
Washington State Convention Center
Kirsten M. Winters, Oregon Sea Grant, Corvallis, OR; and J. Cone and P. Corcoran

Helping coastal communities prepare for climate change is a vital concern, as they face potentially significant effects of climate variability and change during this century. While public and private decision makers may want trusted information support on coastal climate, and Sea Grant may be a vehicle for providing that support, important questions remain regarding the factors that influence use of climate information by decision makers. Our project--a NOAA funded partnership of various Sea Grant states including Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Minnesota, Washington, and Oregon--has sought to develop and facilitate local knowledge-action networks that assist coastal decision makers with decision-relevant information about climate variability and change.

Our ongoing work incorporates methodology addressing risk and uncertainty, based on the risk communication model developed by Morgan and colleagues (Morgan, M. Granger, Fischhoff et al. 2002). This risk communication model derives from decision research and a nonpersuasive outlook. The ethical foundation of nonpersuasive communication is a respect for and trust in the receiver of the communication. In this approach, a communication product or strategy results from the collaboration of four kinds of specialists. The first specialists are the subject-matter experts, who develop the “expert” model that summarizes their knowledge about the topics to be communicated. The second specialists are decision scientists who review the expert model and tease out the elements that are important to the decisions that the intended audience may wish to make. Social scientists are the third specialists; they gather information about the intended audience and its perceptions of the communication topics through mental model interviews and follow-up questionnaires or focus groups. They provide guidance to the fourth specialists, the communicators (meaning here both professional communicators, such as writers and editors, as well as Extension personnel). The guidance reflects on these audience perceptions and goals relating to the proposed communication topic. The resulting communication invites the audience to respond constructively to the information presented.

The presentation will discuss progress toward adapting this particular methodology in real time for use in our partner states. The process of developing expert models, developing interview protocols, conducting mental model interviews, analyzing and using results will be described. We will share the lessons learned in introducing this new procedure to numerous practitioners, the difficulties and successes, as well as innovations based on our project's outcomes which include helping define and assess a management framework of climate resilience for its application to, and use in, local, coastal social-ecological systems.