How to exercise precaution: Topology of No-Know in relation to environmental decision-making

Poul Harremoës, David Gee

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearch


The basis for this paper is a book, recently published by the European Environment Agency, which analyses the precautionary principle based on 14 case studies. The key issue is associated with the uncertainty and ignorance that have proven to be dominating factors in the generation of wrong decisions in the regulatory process. The experience provides the basis for analysis of categories of uncertainty, categories of error and the consequences for the regulatory process. The regulatory approach has to identify what has to be proven by whom and decide on the level of proof. A review of the experience with false negatives in the regulatory process and based on a new ethical standard leads us to this recommendation: use diverse, robust and adaptable solutions in situations of uncertainty, ignorance, and high stakes, so as to allow for the possibility that a wrong decision may be made.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAchievement and challenge : Rio+ 10 and Ireland
EditorsF. Convery, J. Feehan
Place of PublicationDublin
PublisherThe Environmental Institute, University College Dublin
Publication date2002
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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