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Don't count on long-term success in climate policy, warns paper in Decision Analysis
Date:7/1/2008

Long-term climate change policy in the U.S. and abroad is likely to change very slowly, warns a researcher who calls for stronger short-term goals to reduce carbon emissions, according to a study published in Decision Analysis, a journal of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS).

"Incorporating Path Dependence into Decision Analytical Methods: An Application to Global Climate Change Policy" is by Mort Webster. Dr. Webster is currently Assistant Professor for Engineering Systems at MIT. From 2006 until earlier this year, he was a visiting assistant professor in the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change and in the university's Department of Earth, Atmosphere and Planetary Sciences.. The study appears in the current issue of Decision Analysis.

Prof. Webster writes that climate policy decisions are normally made as sequential decisions over time under uncertainty -- given the magnitude of uncertainty in both economic and scientific processes, the decades-to-centuries time scale of the phenomenon, and the ability to reduce uncertainty and revise decisions along the way.

Although staging climate change policy decisions over time would seem to make sense, he points out that the tendency of U.S. and international policy to change extremely slowly requires front-loading the painful decisions.

Applying decision analysis in the context of idealized government decision makers over a century raises the question of how to deal with the fact that political systems tend to exhibit "path dependency," a force that makes large policy shifts difficult and rare, and limits most decisions to small incremental changes.

In his paper, he argues that consideration of path dependence in the context of climate policy justifies greater near-term emissions reductions in what amounts to a hedging strategy.

Prof. Webster challenges the Bush Administration, which has cite
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Contact: Barry List
barry.list@informs.org
443-757-3560
Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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