Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 879–893 | Cite as

Framing climate uncertainty: socio-economic and climate scenarios in vulnerability and adaptation assessments

  • Frans Berkhout
  • Bart van den Hurk
  • Janette Bessembinder
  • Joop de Boer
  • Bram Bregman
  • Michiel van Drunen
Original Article


Scenarios have become a powerful tool in integrated assessment and policy analysis for climate change. Socio-economic and climate scenarios are often combined to assess climate change impacts and vulnerabilities across different sectors and to inform risk management strategies. Such combinations of scenarios can also play an important role in enabling the interaction between experts and other stakeholders, framing issues and providing a means for making explicit and dealing with uncertainties. Drawing on experience with the application of scenarios to climate change assessments in recent Dutch research, the paper argues that scenario approaches need to be matched to the frames of stakeholders who are situated in specific decision contexts. Differentiated approaches (top-down, bottom-up and interactive) are needed to address the different frames and decision-making contexts of stakeholders. A framework is proposed to map scenarios and decision contexts onto two dimensions: the spatial scale of the context and the starting point of approach used in scenario development (top-down, bottom-up or incident-driven). Future climate and socio-economic scenario development will be shaped by the need to become better aligned with multiple interacting uncertainties salient to stakeholders.


Climate change Climate scenarios Socio-economic scenarios Framing Uncertainty Vulnerability Adaptation 



The research reported in this paper was funded under several projects of the Climate Changes Spatial Planning (KvR) programme ( Comments from and discussions with Jaap Kwadijk, Jeroen Veraart, Alexander Bakker and (anonymous) reviewers and the editor have led to substantial improvement of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frans Berkhout
    • 1
  • Bart van den Hurk
    • 2
    • 3
  • Janette Bessembinder
    • 2
  • Joop de Boer
    • 4
    • 5
  • Bram Bregman
    • 2
    • 6
  • Michiel van Drunen
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of GeographyKing’s College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute (KNMI)BilthovenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research Utrecht (IMAU)Utrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM)VU UniversityAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Amsterdam Global Change InstituteVU UniversityAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  6. 6.Faculty of ScienceRadboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands
  7. 7.Amsterdam University College (AUC)AmsterdamThe Netherlands

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