General Principles (click to view principles list)
1. What are my goals?
2. How does climate matter to me?

If climate affects you, or what you do, then you have the potential to use and benefit from climate forecasts. There is a good chance that climate does affect you, because it affects almost everyone—but it does so in many different ways and to differing extents. You need to know in what particular way (or ways) climate affects you, and particularly your goals (Step 3), in order to know how to respond. This means looking at, among other things, what aspects of the climate (droughts, warm winters, etc.) affect you, what are their effects, and how detrimental to you are their consequences. You should also look at how consistent the effects are from one climate event to another, in order to know how likely is it that a similar climate event in the future will have the same effects.

To find out how climate affects you, you can look at how it has affected you in the past. If you are concerned about ENSO-related climate variability, then look at what happened to you during past ENSO events.

A simplified example is that of a government official in charge of ensuring the food security of subsistence farmers living in a semi-arid region. For her, drought in the region during the growing season is a real concern because in the past it has often led to crop failures and food shortages, which necessitated her to arrange for food aid. She may not be concerned much about growing seasons that are cooler or warmer than normal, because they have little effect on how well crops perform in that region.


3. What choices do I have to respond to climate forecasts?
4. What is the climate going to be like?
5. What are the potential impacts of climate on me, given a climate forecast?
6. What decisions should I use to increase the odds of an outcome that is preferred?