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Uncertainty and the Environment

Implications for Decision Making and Environmental Policy

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.
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Chapter 10: Conclusions

Richard Young


10.1 CONCLUSIONS This book has focused on the need to deal adequately with uncertainty and particularly what has been termed ‘hard uncertainty’ in environmental decisionmaking. The premise for this research is based on the assertion made that, if projects or policies are to be consistent with sustainable development objectives, then uncertainty is a key concern that must be addressed. The importance of the need to deal adequately with uncertainty is emphasized by a number of key issues, such as the complexity and interconnectedness of the ecological economic system, the public good nature of many environmental services, the substitutability of ecological functions, the issue of irreversibility, and the dynamic rather than static nature of the ecological–economic system. The research carried out has yielded a number of theoretical and empirical findings which enable several key conclusions to be made. Before these key conclusions are made it will be useful to recap the four main research hypotheses set out in Chapter 1: 1. Existing conceptualizations of uncertainty and in particular environmental uncertainty do not reflect the full range of uncertainty faced in decision making. By recognizing that there are in fact a number of different modalities of uncertainty, it is argued that the use of utility maximizing models, based on the notion of probability, do not adequately deal with the range of environmental uncertainty faced by decision makers. The Shackle model better explains the way that decisions are made in face of uncertainty, and in the context of improving the procedural...

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