Deep Uncertainty and the Long-Term: Time, the policy challenge and enablers for policy persistence

by Judy Lawrence and Robert Lempert

At the conclusion of the DMDU workshop at Deltares, The Netherlands in 2015, we identified political scientists as an additional group that could inform the discussions at the next annual workshop. Accordingly, we designed a problem session at the annual workshop at the World Bank in 2016, entitled: Deep Uncertainty and the Long-Term: Time, the policy challenge and enablers for policy persistence. Whether or not decision makers consider the implications of their decisions for future generations under changing conditions depends on a range of institutional, political, behavioural and ethical factors. One of these is the extent to which policy decisions are influenced by short-termism or presentist bias. This in turn, depends on the political context within which decisions are made.

Tools developed for decision making under conditions of uncertainty and change, need to be ‘fit’ for the changing environment and for the political context, to enable policies to persist over time and adapt to changing conditions. Or the political context could be changed using commitment devices. Thus, for successful implementation of policies that can persist over the long term or be adjusted as the world changes, we need to understand the drivers that motivate the actors.

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Designing monitoring arrangements for collaborative learning about adaptation pathways (2017)

Hermans, Leon M., Marjolijn Haasnoot, Judith ter Maat, Jan H. Kwakkel. (2017). Designing monitoring arrangements for collaborative learning about adaptation pathways. Environmental Science & Policy 69: 29-38. DOI: 10.1016/j.envsci.2016.12.005 . https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1UFzx5Ce0rOGPN

Adaptation pathways approaches support long-term planning under uncertainty. The use of adaptation pathways implies a systematic monitoring effort to inform future adaptation decisions. Such monitoring should feed into a long-term collaborative learning process between multiple actors at various levels. This raises questions about who should monitor what, when and for whom. We formulate an approach that helps to address these questions, developed around the conceptual core offered by adaptive policy pathways methods and their notion of signposts and triggers. This is embedded in a wider approach that revisits the critical assumptions in underlying basic policies, looks forward to future adaptation decisions, and incorporates reciprocity in the organization of monitoring and evaluation. The usefulness and practical feasibility of the approach is studied for a case of the Delta Programme in the Netherlands, which incorporated adaptation pathways in its planning approach called adaptive delta management. The case results suggest that our approach adds value to existing monitoring practices. They further show that different types of signposts exist. Technical signposts, in particular, need to be distinguished from political ones, and require different learning processes with different types of actors.

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What it took to catalyse uptake of dynamic adaptive pathways planning to address climate change uncertainty (2016)

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Barriers and opportunities for robust decision making approaches to support climate change adaptation in the developing world (2016)

Bhave, A. G., Conway, D., Dessai, S., & Stainforth, D. A. (2016). Barriers and opportunities for robust decision making approaches to support climate change adaptation in the developing world. Climate Risk Management, 14, 1-10.  URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212096316300626

Climate change adaptation is unavoidable, particularly in developing countries where the adaptation deficit is often larger than in developed countries. Robust Decision Making (RDM) approaches are considered useful for supporting adaptation decision making, yet case study applications in developing countries are rare. This review paper examines the potential to expand the geographical and sectoral foci of RDM as part of the repertoire of approaches to support adaptation. We review adaptation decision problems hitherto relatively unexplored, for which RDM approaches may have value. We discuss the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches, suggest potential sectors for application and comment on future directions. We identify that data requirements, lack of examples of RDM in actual decision-making, limited applicability for surprise events, and resource constraints are likely to constrain successful application of RDM approaches in developing countries. We discuss opportunities for RDM approaches to address decision problems associated with urban socio-environmental and water-energy-food nexus issues, forest resources management, disaster risk management and conservation management issues. We examine potential entry points for RDM approaches through Environmental Impact Assessments and Strategic Environmental Assessments, which are relatively well established in decision making processes in many developing countries. We conclude that despite some barriers, and with modification, RDM approaches show potential for wider application in developing country contexts.

 

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A critical review of decision support systems for water treatment: Making the case for incorporating climate change and climate extremes (2016)

Raseman, WJ; Kasprzyk, JR; Rosario-Ortiz, FL; Stewart, JR; Livneh, B “A critical review of decision support systems for water treatment: Making the case for incorporating climate change and climate extremes” Environmental Science: Water Research and Technology, In Press. doi:/10.1039/C6EW00121A

Abstract: Water treatment plants (WTPs) are tasked with providing safe potable water to consumers. However, WTPs face numerous challenges, including changes in source water quality and quantity, financial challenges related to operations and upgrades, and stringent water quality regulations. These aforementioned challenges may be exacerbated by climate change in the form of long-term climatic perturbations and the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. To help WTPs overcome these issues, decision support systems (DSSs), which are used to aid and enhance the quality and consistency of decision-making, have been developed. This paper reviews the scientific literature on the development and application of DSSs for water treatment, including physically-based models, statistical models, and artificial intelligence techniques, and suggests future directions in the field. We first set the context of how water quality is impacted by climate change and extreme weather events. We then provide a comprehensive review of DSSs and conclude by offering a series of recommendations for future DSS efforts for WTPs, suggesting that these tools should (1) more accurately reflect the practical needs of WTPs, (2) represent the tradeoffs between the multiple competing objectives inherent to water treatment, (3) explicitly handle uncertainty to better inform decision makers, (4) incorporate nonstationarity, especially with regard to extreme weather events and climate change for long-term planning, and (5) use standardized terminology to accelerate the dissemination of knowledge in the field.

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Cooperative drought adaptation: Integrating infrastructure development, conservation, and water transfers into adaptive policy pathways (2016)

Zeff, H.B., Herman, J., Reed, P.M., and Characklis, G., “Cooperative drought adaptation: Integrating infrastructure development, conservation, and water transfers into adaptive policy pathways.”, Water Resources Research, DOI: 10.1002/2016WR018771.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2016WR018771/abstract

A considerable fraction of urban water supply capacity serves primarily as a hedge against drought.  Water utilities can reduce their dependence on firm capacity and forestall the development of new supplies using short-term drought management actions, such as conservation and transfers.  Nevertheless, new supplies will often be needed, especially as demands rise due to population growth and economic development.  Planning decisions regarding when and how to integrate new supply projects are fundamentally shaped by the way in which short-term adaptive drought management strategies are employed. To date, the challenges posed by long-term infrastructure sequencing and adaptive short-term drought management are treated independently, neglecting important feedbacks between planning and management actions.  This work contributes a risk-based framework that uses continuously updating risk-of-failure (ROF) triggers to capture the feedbacks between short term drought management actions (e.g., conservation and water transfers) and the selection and sequencing of a set of regional supply infrastructure options over the long term.  Probabilistic regional water supply pathways are discovered for four water utilities in the ‘Research Triangle’ region of North Carolina.  Furthermore, this study distinguishes the status-quo planning path of independent action (encompassing utility-specific conservation and new supply infrastructure only) from two cooperative formulations: ‘weak’ cooperation, which combines utility-specific conservation and infrastructure development with regional transfers, and ‘strong’ cooperation, which also includes jointly developed regional infrastructure to support transfers.  Results suggest that strong cooperation aids utilities in meeting their individual objectives at substantially lower costs and with less overall development.  These benefits demonstrate how an adaptive, rule-based decision framework can coordinate integrated solutions that would not be identified using more traditional optimization methods.

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Synthetic Drought Scenario Generation to Support Bottom-Up Water Supply Vulnerability Assessments (2016)

Herman, J., Zeff, H., Lamontagne, J., Reed, P.M., and Characklis, G., “Synthetic Drought Scenario Generation to Support Bottom-Up Water Supply Vulnerability Assessments.”, Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, v142, no. 11, 2016.

http://ascelibrary.org/doi/10.1061/%28ASCE%29WR.1943-5452.0000701

Robustness analyses of water supply systems have moved toward exploratory simulation to discover scenarios in which existing or planned policies may fail to meet stakeholder objectives. Such assessments depend on the development of plausible future scenarios, which, in the case of drought management, requires sampling or generating a broad ensemble of reservoir inflows which extends beyond the historical record. This work adapts synthetic streamflow generation to allow adjustable frequency of low-flow periods. The approach facilitates robustness assessments of urban water supply systems for scenarios in which impactful historical droughts become more frequent. Specifically, the contributed streamflow generation procedure allows the user to specify parameters n, p such that events with observed weekly non-exceedance frequency p appear in the synthetic scenario with approximate frequency np (i.e., the pth percentile flow occurs n times more frequently). Additionally, the generator preserves the historical autocorrelation of streamflow and its seasonality, as well as approximate multi-site correlation. Using model simulations from recent work in multi-objective urban drought portfolio planning in North Carolina, a region whose water supply faces both climate and population pressures, we illustrate the decision-relevant consequences caused by raising the frequency of low flows associated with the 2007-2008 drought. This method explores system performance under increased drought frequency based on stakeholder experience prior to reconciling these findings with climate model projections, and thus can be used to support bottom-up robustness methods in water systems planning.

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Improving Decision Support for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control (2016)

Manheim, David, Margaret Chamberlin, Osonde Osoba, Raffaele Vardavas and Melinda Moore. Improving Decision Support for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control: Aligning Models and Other Tools with Policymakers’ Needs. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2016. http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1576.html.

This report describes decision-support tools, including models and nonmodeling approaches, that are relevant to infectious disease prevention, detection, and response and aligns these tools with real-world policy questions that the tools can help address. The intended audience includes technical experts — for example, modelers and subject-matter experts — and the policymakers that those experts can support.

Understanding the available models and other tools is critical for understanding uncertainties and considering how to address them. This report intends to move that discussion forward in the realm of infectious diseases.

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What are the topics of this year’s annual meeting? A word cloud

by  Marjolijn Haasnoot, Laura Bonzanigo

Tomorrow we will start our 4th annual meeting of the Society for Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty. Like last year we made word cloud of the titles of the presentation, abstract and posters.  As expected ‘uncertainty’ is one of the most frequent words this year. However, this has not always been the case. If you look back at the word clouds from previous meetings (see picture below), you see this pops up in the second meeting, and in the third meeting this becomes DEEP uncertainty. Is uncertainty increasing?
Regarding the policy domains and topics that are addressed ‘infrastructure’ and ‘climate’ stand out in this year’s meeting. The topic of ‘water’ follows after that. In previous years water was more present, while in the first meeting that was less of a clear policy topic that stood out. ‘Climate’ as topic for deep uncertainty has always been there, although less apparent in the titles of last years meeting. You might also notice a change from ‘robust decision making/analysis’ in the first meeting towards ‘adaptation/adaptive decision making’. The most outstanding difference the infrastructure in this year’s meeting. We are very much looking forward to hear more …

wordle-all-years

Word clouds are made with: http://www.wordle.net/create

 

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Comparing Robust Decision-Making and Dynamic Adaptive Policy Pathways for model-based decision support under deep uncertainty (2016)

Jan H. Kwakkel, Marjolijn Haasnoot, Warren E. Walker (2016) Comparing Robust Decision-Making and Dynamic Adaptive Policy Pathways for model-based decision support under deep uncertainty, Environmental Modelling & Software 86 (2016) 168-183, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.envsoft.2016.09.017

A variety of model-based approaches for supporting decision-making under deep uncertainty have been suggested, but they are rarely compared and contrasted. In this paper, we compare Robust Decision-Making with Dynamic Adaptive Policy Pathways. We apply both to a hypothetical case inspired by a river reach in the Rhine Delta of the Netherlands, and compare them with respect to the required tooling, the resulting decision relevant insights, and the resulting plans. The results indicate that the two approaches are complementary. Robust Decision-Making offers insights into conditions under which problems occur, and makes trade-offs transparent. The Dynamic Adaptive Policy Pathways approach emphasizes dynamic adaptation over time, and thus offers a natural way for handling the vulnerabilities identified through Robust Decision-Making. The application also makes clear that the analytical process of Robust Decision-Making is path-dependent and open ended: an analyst has to make many choices, for
which Robust Decision-Making offers no direct guidance.

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