Climate Risk Management in the Anthropocene: From Basic Science to Decisionmaking and Back.

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 4:45 PM
Klaus Keller, Pennsylvania State University, Geosciences, University Park, PA, United States; Carnegie Mellon University, Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Pittsburgh, PA, United States
Burning fossil fuels imposes a complex mixture of benefits and risks on current and future generations. While enabling a tremendous growth in prosperity, the resulting greenhouse gas emissions also drive risks associated with anthropogenic climate change. Managing climate risks has already motivated local, national, and global actions: utilities replace coal-fired power plants with gas turbines, engineers design sea-walls for future climates, companies sequester carbon dioxide into geological reservoirs, and federally as well as privately funded research projects analyze potential geoengineering approaches. These actions raise the question: what are sustainable, scientifically sound, technologically feasible, economically efficient, and ethically defensible climate-risk management strategies?

This presentation reviews current and suggests improved approaches to designing and analyzing climate risk management strategies. Choosing a strategy involves complex trade-offs across diverse objectives and risk management instruments. In addition, this problem is imbued with deep uncertainty, where decisionmakers disagree about the appropriate problem framing, model structure, parameter values, and objectives. Neglecting this deep uncertainty can lead to considerable biases in risk assessments. Furthermore, deep uncertainty can render the typically applied model of expected utility maximization a poor description of actual decisionmakers’ preferences. Applying a robust decisionmaking framework can improve decision support, identify mission-critical basic science questions, simplify the integration of new scientific findings, and provide avenues to analyze coupled epistemic-ethical questions.