We live in an uncertain world. Scenario planning can help.

When Shell Oil produced a sophisticated scenario of the path to a carbon neutral world in 2070, a lot people took notice. Shell concluded that the “relevant transformations in the energy and natural systems require concurrent climate policy action and the deployment of disruptive new technologies at mass scale within government policy environments that strongly …


“You’re Just Not My Type (of error)”

Most people find statistics off-putting — who wants to look at a bunch of numbers?  And Statistics courses, which are required for students in many majors, are usually viewed as a painful box to check.  But when you put aside the numbers and the technicalities, statisticians also have some simple yet powerful concepts.  One of …


Seismic Uncertainty

What happened last March 11 wasn’t supposed to be possible. The seismic hazard maps didn’t entertain the idea of a 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the Tohoku coast of Japan. But the Earth paid no heed to scientific orthodoxy. A massive slab of the planet’s crust lurched 180 feet to the east. It rose about 15 …


The story of the Price-Anderson Act: how Congress made nuclear power financially viable in the U.S. by eliminating accountability for risk

Ever wonder how nuclear power plants have been able to get financial backing in the U.S. despite the huge, and largely uncertain, potential risks they pose?  Or why there are nuclear plants within a few hours’ drive of major population centers such as Los Angeles and New York?  Or who will pay the costs that …


The Truly Conservative View of Climate Policy

A nice column in the Washington Post about why conservatives should change their views about climate policy: When faced with uncertainty and the possibility of costly outcomes, smart businessmen buy insurance, reduce their downside exposure and protect their assets… And when military planners assess an enemy, they get ready for a worst-case encounter. When it …


Should We Run Some Controlled Climate Change Experiments?

Controlled experiments in general are the best way of doing science, but we haven’t been able to take advantage of that in science research. Considering the importance of the climate change issue, it might be worth taking a serious look at this possibility, even if it does seem a little outside the box.


Gambling on Climate Change

Paul Krugman had a great article about climate change in the NY Times magazine on Sunday.  It provides a really useful primer on the economics of climate change. In particular, Krugman emphasizes that uncertainty is a reason for action, not a reason to to allow unchecked global warming: We’re uncertain about the magnitude of climate …


Why You Should Worry About Climate Change Even If You Don’t Think It Is Going To Happen

Even if you think that carbon emissions won’t cause uncertainty, you should think seriously about hedging that bet.


New GAO Report on Adaptation

GAO has released an important report on adaptation.  This is a subject that is just beginning to get the attention it deserves. Key findings: The challenges faced by federal, state, and local officials in their efforts to adapt fell into three categories, based on GAO’s analysis of questionnaire results, site visits, and available studies. First, …


Confronting Uncertainty Under NEPA

Quantifying risks with confidence is often difficult. For the past thirty years, agencies and courts have struggled with the treatment of uncertainty in environmental impact statements. This problem is all the more important today. Climate change will require innovative solutions – new energy technologies, new adaptation strategies. These innovations will inevitably pose risks, often in …