Risk assessment can potentially provide an objective framework to synthesise and prioritise climate change risks to inform adaptation policy. However, there are significant challenges in the application of comparative risk assessment procedures to climate change, particularly for the natural environment. These challenges are evaluated with particular reference to the first statutory Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) and evidence review procedures used to guide policy for the UK government. More progress was achieved on risk identification, screening and prioritisation compared to risk quantification. This was due to the inherent complexity and interdependence of ecological risks and their interaction with socio-economic drivers as well as a climate change. Robust strategies to manage risk were identified as those that coordinate organisational resources to enhance ecosystem resilience, and to accommodate inevitable change, rather than to meet specific species or habitats targets. The assessment also highlighted subjective and contextual components of risk appraisal including ethical issues regarding the level of human intervention in the natural environment and the proposed outcomes of any intervention. This suggests that goals for risk assessment need to be more clearly explicated and assumptions on tolerable risk declared as a primer for further dialogue on expectations for managed outcomes. Ecosystem-based adaptation may mean that traditional habitats and species conservation goals and existing regulatory frameworks no longer provide the best guide for long-term risk management thereby challenging the viability of some existing practices.
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