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Using scenario planning to confront deep uncertainty: a case study from the Crown of the Continent

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Monday, 24 January 2011
Using scenario planning to confront deep uncertainty: a case study from the Crown of the Continent
Washington State Convention Center
Holly C. Hartmann, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson, AZ; and L. Welling

Climate changes associated with global warming pose myriad risks in natural resource management. The National Park Service (NPS) faces daunting challenges in addressing prospective climate change impacts; in some parks, changes threaten the existence of emblematic park attributes. Each park faces unique risks, reflecting its natural, cultural, and historical attributes, its purpose as defined in establishing authorization, the resources available for planning and implementing adaptive responses, and the uncertainty of local climate change impacts. The NPS has been testing scenario planning as an approach for incorporating climate change risks and adaptation within existing resource management frameworks. The process emphasizes development of scenarios diverging across multiple dimensions to plausibly push the boundaries of commonplace assumptions about the future rather than simply bracketing a moderate climate projection with higher and lower extremes. It requires engaging a broad range of park management and science specialists, with participation changing flexibly as the process addresses different issues - a challenge because participants are typically scattered across many states, yet scenario development requires repeated iterations of data analysis and extensive discussion. The most recent case study, for the Crown of the Continent (CoC) Ecosystem that includes Glacier National Park, expanded on prior experience by involving multiple U.S., Canadian, and Native Nation jurisdictions; testing whether scenarios developed by a small team prior to a workshop would be acceptable; attempting to build on, rather than reinvent, the rapidly evolving array of adaptation actions being developed elsewhere; and exploring procedures for connecting scenario narratives with standard planning processes and enabling management issues to drive inventory and monitoring approaches. Three scenario narratives were developed for the CoC: Climate Complacency, Colorado Creeps North, and Race to Refuge. The scenario approach is proving useful for considering climate change in the context of complex systems and large uncertainties, and for connecting scientific analyses to management concerns and processes. The process has been developed into a template for independent application elsewhere. It uses Internet-based tools (e.g., webinars, diagramming tools) to elucidate a common understanding of linkages between driving forces and anticipated impacts, management and adaptation challenges, and planning processes. Face-to-face workshop sessions then focus on vetting the scenarios, exploring adaptation strategies and potential shifts in management objectives, and connections to extant planning and management processes.