Cover: Characterizing Climate-Change Uncertainties for Decision-Makers

Characterizing Climate-Change Uncertainties for Decision-Makers

Published in: Climatic Change, v. 65, nos. 1-2, 2004, p. 1-9

Posted on on January 01, 2004

by Robert J. Lempert, Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Daniel R. Sarewitz, Michael E. Schlesinger

Climate-change policy-making confronts a wide range of significant scientific and socioeconomic uncertainties. How experts should best characterize such uncertainties for decision-makers has emerged as an important debate within the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Advocates assert that good decisions under uncertainty are contingent on well-defined probabilities and, lacking experts judgements, decision-makers will make their own politically motivated estimates of likelihood. Probability-based estimates are a powerful risk-management tool, but can have serious limitations when applied to a problem such as climate change. To avoid the pitfalls of probability-based methods, the IPCC should also consider approaches to decision-making under conditions of uncertainty that do not depend on expert consensus on probabilities.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.