THE VALUE OF UNCERTAINTY IN DECISION MAKING

Roger Street, Technical Director UK Climate Impact Programme, Oxford University

Veronica Bowman Lecture Slides

Abstract‌

Uncertainty is present in most if not all of our political, economic and social decisions, including those related to the addressing our changing climate. Whereas for most of these decisions arguments of lack of absolute certainty do not hinder action, climate action has been questioned and the inherent uncertainty of climate science that has provided the basis for action has been used to call for disregarding or delaying that action. The overwhelming evidence on the changing nature of our climate and our increasing vulnerabilities however require that we take action now and continue to do so into the future. This means taking action that uses the evidence base, including the inherent uncertainties.

Within building resilience and adaptation to a changing climate, recognition that there is a need for action and that uncertainties will continue to exist has led to innovative ways of moving forward to identifying and taking action, including using relevant and robust evidence-based decision-making processes that incorporate the associated uncertainties with the intent of better informing decisions. This talk will explore the draw on scholarship and practices related to decision-making, and explore the value of including uncertainty in decision making drawing on examples from climate change adaptation. In this case, the value comes from managing and effectively incorporating the evidence and its uncertainties into decision-making processes, the resulting decisions and their implementation. In doing so there is increasing concern that ignoring or limiting the consideration of uncertainties increases the risk of wrongfully directed decisions or policies, including those with potential high social, economic and environmental costs.

About the Speaker

Roger has an MSc in Physics from the University of Toronto and came to UKCIP in January 2006 after working over 32 years with the Canadian federal government. Much of his work focused on climate, climate impacts and adaptation. These included working within the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change beginning with its first assessment report, leadership of the Canada Country Study, and involvement with the US National Assessment on climate change impacts. As UKCIP Technical Director, Roger leads the Programme’s technical and scientific work aimed at guiding impacts and adaptation studies, and at developing and delivering new supportive resources and tools, including the next set of UKCIP climate scenarios.

About the Risk Lecture Series:

As part of the effort to connect the research in the Institute with prominent organisations, and to contribute to University's ongoing efforts in reaching out to the general public, an Open Lecture Series in Risk and Uncertainty will take place in 2017. High-profile speakers from government, industry and academia have been invited to deliver talks.

The lectures would take place in the Leggate LT in the Victoria Building on the University of Liverpool campus at 5.30pm.