The role of incertitude in environmental decision making

Poul Harremoës

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearch


    In the extreme, there are two opposing approaches to technological development: The empirical, iterative approach (also called trial and error) versus the predictive, design approach. In scientific terms, the first is based on association and the latter is based on causality. In Europe, the latter developed as a consequence of the renaissance, based on a combination of induction (data) and deduction (theory). The "success" of the western world is based on the latter. In contrast, China developed induction to perfection in which respect they were much better than the western world. During the last century there have been an increasing number of environmental "surprises" as a consequence of the development in the western world. Too many detrimental impacts on the environment occurred due to disregarded knowledge or ignorance with respect to the causality (cause-effect relationship) between the pressures on the environment and consequences to the environment. There is need for a change of paradigm from an elitist, narrow approach to integrated environmental assessment and risk assessment. The incertitude has to be accounted for in order to prevent surprises. In case of recognised incertitude, solutions have to be flexible and robust, especially in situations involving irreversibility of the consequences of the decision. When recognising uncertainty and ignorance, the empirical, iterative approach has its virtues.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publication5th International Conference on Technology Policy and Innovation : Session on "Building robust infrastructures - dealing with uncertainty in policy analysis", Technical University Delft, NL, June 2001
    Place of PublicationUtrecht, NL
    PublisherLemma Publishers
    Publication date2001
    Publication statusPublished - 2001
    Event5th International Conference on Technology Policy and Innovation -
    Duration: 1 Jan 2001 → …


    Conference5th International Conference on Technology Policy and Innovation
    Period01/01/2001 → …


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