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

Joseph DeAngelis, AICP
Joseph DeAngelis, AICP, is a planner and research manager at the American Planning Association, where he focuses on climate adaptation, natural hazard risk, and how they interact with emerging trends. He holds a Master of Urban Planning degree from CUNY-Hunter College.