Making use of uncertainty in environmental decision-making
by Professor Mark Burgman
Abstract: Uncertainty is pervasive in environmental decision making. Taxonomies of uncertainty are useful to describe the things we don't know. Typically, in the past, they have been too narrow to deal with the full range of uncertainty that confronts environmental decision-makers. Lack of knowledge about how systems work and language-based misunderstandings are difficult to describe formally and usually go unacknowledged. This presentation provides some examples and shows their effects in routine environmental issues. It emphasises that ignoring these sources of uncertainty doesn't make them go away. It outlines some solutions, including satisfactory (rather than optimal) decisions and a more complete characterisation of unknowns. These approaches provide new solutions to previously intractable social dilemmas regarding decisions among competing demands for scarce natural resources.
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