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Uncertainty and precaution in environmental management: Insights from the UPEM conference

By J.P. van der Sluijs


Communication across the science-policy interface is complicated by uncertainty and ignorance associated with predictions on which to base policies. The international symposium “Uncertainty and Precaution in Environmental Management” (UPEM) addressed the philosophy, approaches and scientific tools associated with the analysis and communication of uncertainty and ignorance to decisions makers in relation to the Precautionary Principle. This paper presents a sample of highlights and insights of UPEM of relevance to the environmental modeling communities. Key insights include: (1) Systematic long-term monitoring and learning are essential. (2) More attention is needed for model structure uncertainty and equifinality. (3) Explicit value articulation in environmental assessment is essential. (4) Sophisticated uncertainty assessment and Quality Assurance methods—such as the Walker et al. conceptual uncertainty framework, NUSAP, and codes of uncertainty-explicit modeling practice from RIVM and EPA—are now available and on their way of becoming main stream. (5) There is a wide range of precautionary interventions (a ban is not the only option). (6) Legal and Ethical dimensions of precaution—such as liability, burden of proof, inter- and intra generational equity—require more thought. (7) The problems that developing countries face in implementing the Precautionary Principle need more attention

Year: 2007
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