Thursday, June 4, 2009

Making good decisions

The National Academies Press has a new book "Informing Decisions in a Changing Climate". A line from the first page:

Climate change will create a novel and dynamic decision environment. The parameters of the new climate regime cannot be envisioned from past experience. Moreover, climatic changes will be superimposed on social and economic changes that are altering the climate vulnerability of different regions and sectors of society, as well as their ability to cope. Decision makers will need new kinds of information and new ways of thinking and learning to function effectively in a changing climate.

The first two chapters are a goldmine of references on the social science of decision making. What's reassuring is the strong overlap with Department of Interior approaches to adaptive management that I've been pushing. The key learning piece for me is the emphasis here on the process and governance of decision support - something that I personally have started to recognize I'm incompetent at. Lots of good stuff.

The 3rd chapter is on learning - and Adaptive Management is one of the approaches they discuss. I found the discussion illuminating - it references the North American School of adaptive management, but not the more recent work on the Australian school, or the move by the Department of Interior to use AM. It does discuss several possible reasons why "active" adaptive management, the use of managment experiments to reduce uncertainty are difficult. They characterize decision making objectives as "unchanging" in AM, which I disagree with - at least in Australian School AM approaches we accept the ability and need to update objectives periodically.

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