The Use of Foresight and Scenario Planning in Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Planning

PAS Memo 113

By Petra Hurtado, PhD, Joseph DeAngelis, AICP



This edition of PAS Memo is available free to all thanks to financial support from FEMA through the Cooperating Technical Partners program.

Planners today are increasingly familiar with the concept of scenario planning. Relatively new to planners, however, is the practice of foresight, which enables practitioners to better prepare for an unpredictable future by identifying and considering external drivers of change that are outside of our control.

As a key component of the practice of foresight, exploratory scenario planning offers significant benefits for planning in dynamic and complex systems. Thus, it can be a particularly useful tool in planning for natural hazards and adapting to climate change, given the complexity and uncertainty involved in both of these areas.

This PAS Memo offers guidance to planners on how to expand their use of foresight through exploratory scenario planning in both the hazard mitigation and climate adaptation fields. It defines foresight and scenario planning, discusses how they are related, and explains how they can be useful when planning in highly dynamic and complex systems, such as hazard mitigation and climate adaptation planning. Practical examples on the use of scenario planning in adapting to climate change in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and in Seattle are discussed. Finally, key action steps are presented for planners interested in using scenario planning techniques in their hazard mitigation and climate adaptation efforts.


Date Published
Oct. 1, 2022
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Authors

Petra Hurtado, PhD
<p>Petra (Stieninger) Hurtado is the Director of Research and Foresight at the American Planning Association, heading APA&rsquo;s research programs and foresight practice. In this role, she is responsible for expanding a future-focused research agenda, advancing planning practices that assist communities in navigating change, and developing APA&#39;s foresight practice to inform APA&#39;s strategic governance. Petra has a Ph.D. in urban planning from the Vienna University of Technology. Her areas of expertise and research include strategic foresight, urban futures, urban sustainability, smart cities, emerging technologies, nature-based solutions, and environmental psychology. Prior to joining APA, she worked as an advisor, planner, researcher, and educator in the global urban sustainability arena. Petra has authored and co-authored multiple books, research papers, publicly funded reports, and articles and has presented as a keynote speaker at numerous conferences around the globe. She is an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland and at the Vienna University of Technology.&nbsp;</p>

Joseph DeAngelis, AICP
Joseph DeAngelis, AICP is a planner and Research Manager with the American Planning Association in Chicago. Joseph's primary area of research is in the realm of climate adaptation and community resilience. He currently manages APA's slate of FEMA and NOAA sponsored research projects. Previously, he was a resiliency planner for the New York City Department of City Planning, where he worked on long-term planning and zoning solutions for communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy.