By Robert Lempert and Marjolijn Haasnoot
In columnist Bret Stephens’ first blog post for the New York Times, published at the end of April, he highlights the uncertainty surrounding climate change, warns against overconfidence, and issues an invitation to dialogue. We agree that significant uncertainty exists regarding the future impacts of climate change and the costs of avoiding those impacts, that it is dangerous to ignore or downplay that uncertainty, and that acknowledging these uncertainties can provide a strong foundation for dialogue.
A vast literature exists on uncertainty and climate change. Most of it suggests that uncertainty is a reason for action. That said, it remains a significant challenge to determine what actions most effectively balance society’s many goals, in the presence of deep uncertainty about the likelihood of various futures and how our actions are related to consequences.
In exchanges with Stephens, both Andy Revkin and Costa Samaras highlighted the Society for Decision Making Under Deep Uncertainty as a community that brings together researchers and practitioners from all over the world. We develop, apply and exchange experiences on methods, approaches and case studies on decision making under deep uncertainty. Climate change is one of the policy domains (though not the only one) of great interest to many of the Society’s members. Continue reading
by Julie Rozenberg, Economist at the World Bank in the Chief Economist Office for Sustainable Development.
This blog is a reposted from the World Bank.
In 2015, severe floods washed away a series of bridges in Mozambique’s Nampula province, leaving several small villages completely isolated. Breslau, a local engineer and one of our counterparts, knew that rebuilding those bridges would take months. Breslau took his motorbike and drove the length of the river to look for other roads, trails, or paths to help the villagers avoid months of isolation. He eventually found an old earth path that was quickly cleaned up and restored… After a few days, the villagers had an alternative to the destroyed bridge, reconnecting them to the rest of the network and the country.
What happened in the Nampula province perfectly illustrates how a single weather event can quickly paralyze transport connections, bringing communities and economies to a screeching halt. There are many more examples of this phenomenon, which affects both developing and developed countries. On March 30th, a section of the I-85 interstate collapsed in Atlanta, causing schools to close and forcing many people to work from home. In Peru, food prices increase in Lima when the carretera central is disrupted by landslides because agricultural products can’t be brought to market.
How can we help countries improve the resilience of their transport networks in a context of scarce resources and rising climate uncertainty?
by: Steven Popper
The Society for Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty held its first annual training day event on 15 November 2016 at World Bank Headquarters in Washington, DC. This was the day prior to the start of the DMDU Society’s annual two-day workshop. The Society’s leadership team has decided that a training day will precede future DMDU workshops under the direction of the chair for education and training in coordination with that year’s workshop organizing committee. This decision is a direct response to an interest expressed through the questionnaire on education and training distributed to the Society’s membership earlier in 2016. The survey disclosed not only an interest in such a session but a willingness to participate on the part of students, DMDU analysts and methodologists, and policy practitioners.
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.
by Marjolijn Haasnoot (Deltares, Delft University), Judy Lawrence (New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute), Robert Lempert (RAND), Nidhi Kalra (RAND), Jan Kwakkel (Delft University)
In early November 2015 about 100 scientists and practitioners from all over the world shared their experiences and methods at the third annual meeting of the Society for Decision Making Under Deep Uncertainty in Delft, Netherlands. The workshop was hosted by Deltares, Delft University of Technology, and UNESCO-IHE and co-organized with RAND, the World Bank, Victoria University of Wellington’s Climate Change Research Institute, and staff of the Dutch Delta Programme.