- Governments have an obligation to those affected to convey the scale and range of the risks and the expected impacts that climate change will bring.
- Public engagement in decision-making processes is an asset for governments, not a burden to be avoided. Engagement can help provide information, prioritize needs, and decide which climate-related risks are acceptable while creating support for adaptation activities.
- Governments need to ensure that those affected have legal rights to be consulted and engaged in policy and planning processes.
- Engaging the public early, and directly, in assessing climate risks and vulnerability and developing responses for their communities can ensure more effective planning and inclusion of vulnerable populations.
- Engaging communities and civil society in collecting, using, and disseminating information, such as local rainfall data, can produce valuable knowledge for both short-term needs and longer-term adaptation measures.
- Financial and other incentives can play a critical role in persuading the public to take part in adaptation-related monitoring and implementation activities.
- Government-led activities may fail, and investments may be lost, if communities are not actively engaged throughout the policy process, including in implementation and monitoring of efforts and evaluation of results.
Public engagement will be essential to laying the groundwork for societies to make the difficult choices that climate change will require. Which climate risks should be addressed, and should they take precedence over other pressing national priorities? Which vulnerable populations, sectors, and ecosystems should be prioritized for adaptation efforts? Questions such as these, and the decisions that flow from them, need to be the subject of debate and, ideally, consensus.
In this chapter, we explore the critical importance of public engagement in decision making in a changing climate, and we try to provide decision makers with specific approaches to promote broad public engagement in adaptation decision making. Such comprehensive engagement will be necessary not only for directly addressing climate risks through the planning and policymaking processes but also for decisions that can affect vulnerability.