Uncertainty and the Environment

Uncertainty and the Environment

Implications for Decision Making and Environmental Policy

New Horizons in Environmental Economics series

Richard Young

This thought provoking book is concerned with the need to deal adequately with uncertainty in environmental decision making. The author advances a critique of the use of traditional models and then develops an alternative model of decision making under uncertainty, based on the work of George Shackle.

Preface

Richard Young

Subjects: economics and finance, environmental economics, environment, environmental economics

Extract

This book is concerned with the issue of uncertainty in environmental decision making. The focus on uncertainty stems from the premise that uncertainty is a key issue which must be addressed, if sustainability objectives are to be met at a project or policy level. Using an alternative conceptualization of uncertainty, it is contended that there are a number of different modes of uncertainty and that many environmental decisions are largely characterized by what is termed ‘hard uncertainty’, in which the set of possible actions or future states is unknown or where the probability distribution for such outcomes is unknown or not fully definable. The presence of hard uncertainty radically alters the way in which environmental uncertainty can be dealt with at both an epistemological and a practical level and poses a number of problems for traditional decision-making frameworks based on probability. Consequently, a critique is advanced of the use of traditional models, such as expected utility, in environmental decision making and it is argued that there is a need to evaluate decision-making models in relation to the rationality of the way that decisions are made. Building on this, an alternative model of decision making under uncertainty derived from the work of George Shackle is outlined and applied to environmental decision making. The model is operationalized in terms of both explaining the way that decisions are and should be made, and applied to a case study of the Belize Southern Highway Project. By analysing data derived from interviews conducted with...