Handbook of Research methods and Applications in Environmental Studies
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Handbook of Research methods and Applications in Environmental Studies

Edited by Matthias Ruth

This volume presents methods to advance the understanding of interdependencies between the well-being of human societies and the performance of their biophysical environment. It showcases applications to material and energy use; urbanization and technological transition; economic growth and social vulnerabilities; development and governance of social and industrial networks; the role of history, culture, and science itself in carrying out analysis and guiding policy; as well as the role of theory, data, and models in guiding decisions.
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Chapter 20: Multi-criteria environmental performance assessment with an additive model

Luís C. Dias, Sandra Silva and Luís Alçada-Almeida


Environmental studies are often performed with the purpose of informing decision making. Using decision-aiding methodologies (Bouyssou et al. 2000; Roy 1996) can therefore be an important part of such studies. Decision aiding consists in helping decision makers to communicate and reason about a decision, to increase their insight into the problem, and to identify which grounds justify their decision in an auditable way. Thus, it should not be regarded as a tool that would dictate to decision makers the (supposedly objective and optimal) decision they should make. Multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) (Belton and Stewart 2002; Bouyssou et al. 2006; Ishizaka and Nemery 2013; Roy 1996) is an approach to evaluate alternatives (projects candidates, courses of action, and so on) that explicitly accepts more than one evaluation dimension. It is a methodological approach that recognizes that most decisions involve the need to compromise between conflicting objectives (Bouyssou 1993). Multi-criteria decision analysis addresses this conflict by acknowledging multiple evaluation criteria explicitly. This is more transparent than translating all aspects into monetary currency or following some other single criterion to compare alternatives, subject to constraints that define which alternatives are feasible. For instance, instead of seeking to minimize costs subject to an environmental impact constraint, or instead of seeking to minimize an environmental impact subject to a budget constraint, these two dimensions are considered as objectives to be balanced.

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