Being Prepared for Climate Change: EPA Workbook for Developing Risk-Based Adaptation Plans

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Workbook for climate adaptation planning presents a risk management methodology with step-by-step guidance on building a climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation action plan. The guidance provides decision-support tools for conducting vulnerability assessments at a watershed scale, and will help environmental managers to establish climate change adaptation priorities and strategies to prepare a risk-based adaptation plan.

The EPA explains that the audience for this Workbook is professionals at organizations that manage environmental resources, especially organizations with a coastal or watershed focus. “They are knowledgeable about their systems but not necessarily sophisticated about climate science or risk management.”

The Workbook is comprised of ten steps to guide the practitioner on first conducting a climate change vulnerability assessment, and then an adaptation action plan.  Each step is developed with sections explaining the objective; the process; how to get started; a document to develop or a table to fill out; and additional Resources related to that step.

The five steps for building a climate change vulnerability assessment as detailed in the report are:

  • Step 1 - Communication and Consultation: Informing key people about the vulnerability assessment and asking for input.
  • Step 2 - Establishing the Context for the Vulnerability Assessment: Identifying organizational goals that are susceptible to climate change.
  • Step 3 - Risk Identification: Brainstorming about how climate stressors will interact with your goals.
  • Step 4 - Risk Analysis: Developing an initial characterization of consequence and likelihood for each risk.
  • Step 5 - Risk Evaluation, Comparing Risks: Using a consequence/probability matrix to build consensus about each risk.

The objective of the Risk Analysis is to make an initial, high-level determination of the consequence, likelihood, spatial scale of the impact, the onset time, and habitat types affected for the climate change risks as identified in Step 3, so they can be sorted into high-medium-low qualitative categories of impact. The EPA says that this is the most intensive step of the vulnerability assessment - and this information will all be important in determining adaptation priorities.

Steps 6 - 10 of the Workbook are for developing the climate change action plan:

  • Step 6 - Establishing the Context for the Action Plan: Identifying opportunities and constraints that will affect your adaptation decisions.
  • Step 7 - Risk Evaluation, Deciding on a Course: Deciding at a high level whether you will mitigate, transfer, accept or avoid each risk.
  • Step 8a - Finding Adaptation Actions: Finding mitigating actions that look promising for further investigation.
  • Step 8b - Selecting Adaptation Actions: Screening potential actions, and selecting a set of risk-reducing actions to implement.
  • Step 9 - Preparing and Implementing an Action Plan: Creating a plan to track mitigating actions and which risks they address.
  • Step 10 - Monitoring and Review: Keeping track of your actions and maintaining your vulnerability assessment.

Appendix C offers information on other EPA resources to use to evaluate the vulnerability of specific species, sites or sectors. 


Publication Date: August 2014

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Resource Types:

  • Assessment guide
  • Planning guides

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