Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2008

Abstract

Scenarios are increasingly used to inform global-change debates, but their connection to decisions has been weak and indirect. This reflects the greater number and variety of potential users and scenario needs, relative to other decision domains where scenario use is more established. Global-change scenario needs include common elements, e.g., model-generated projections of emissions and climate change, needed by many users but in different ways and with different assumptions. For these common elements, the limited ability to engage diverse global-change users in scenario development requires extreme transparency in communicating underlying reasoning and assumptions, including probability judgments. Other scenario needs are specific to users, requiring a decentralized network of scenario and assessment organizations to disseminate and interpret common elements and add elements requiring local context or expertise. Such an approach will make global-change scenarios more useful for decisions, but not less controversial. Despite predictable attacks, scenario-based reasoning is necessary for responsible global-change decisions because decision-relevant uncertainties cannot be specified scientifically. The purpose of scenarios is not to avoid speculation, but to make the required speculation more disciplined, more anchored in relevant scientific knowledge when available, and more transparent.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. The full license text is available from creativecommons.org.


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