Efforts are being made to develop new paradigms for climate change adaptation policy at both the national and the international levels. However, progress in vulnerability and adaptation research has not been matched by advancement on practical policy initiatives. The complexity of the challenge to develop methods and means to support adaptation to climate change necessitates a diversity of approaches. This diversity is healthy, and yet it is possible to define some key characteristics and tools that can promote practical outcomes. In this paper, some methodologies that have proved successful are reviewed. These include a mapping of contextual circumstances, an appreciation for multiple perspectives, and the importance of a “boundary object” in forging strong interactions among project participants. Further, a toolkit of approaches for natural scientists is presented. This toolkit can be used to organize work in collaboration with stakeholders and other participants and can help overcome barriers to a meaningful contribution to the policy process. Fundamentally, this challenge will require approaches that are more grounded in meaning, narration, and reflection.

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School of Geography and Environmental Science, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia