Studies of climate change at specific intervals of future warming have primarily been addressed through top-down approaches using climate projections and modelled impacts. In contrast, bottom-up approaches focus on the recent past and present vulnerability. Here, we examine climate signals at different increments of warming and consider the need to reconcile top-down and bottom-up approaches. We synthesise insights from recent studies in three climate-sensitive systems where change is a defining feature of the human-environment system. Whilst top-down and bottom-up approaches generate complementary insights into who and what is at risk, integrating their results is a much-needed step towards developing relevant information to address the needs of immediate adaptation decisions.
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The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information: Nature Climate Change thanks Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson and other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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This work is associated to CARIAA, with financial support from the UK Government’s Department for International Development, and the International Development Research Centre in Ottawa, Canada. The views expressed in this work are those of the creators and do not necessarily represent those of the UK Government’s Department for International Development, the International Development Research Centre, Canada, or its Board of Governors. D.C. and F.C. acknowledge financial support from the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, and the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) through the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy. W.N.A. and R.D.C. acknowledge financial support from the UK Economic and Social Research Council through grant no. ES/R002371/1.