Second, given the importance of utility, conveying the magnitude and nature of uncertainty is crucial. It is a central concern of research on the communication of scientific information. In addition, determining the magnitude and nature of uncertainty is an essential research task, as is the task of understanding how uncertainty affects the decision process.

Third, forecasting is essential regardless of the approach to environmental and resource management. Even if decision makers engage in what they regard as adaptive management,1 forecasting is still required in the selection of optimal strategies. If feedback through monitoring and evaluation calls for policy changes, the decision makers still must project the likely outcomes of available alternatives; without this analysis the adaptation is just as likely to result in a deterioration of outcomes. If adaptive management resorts to policy experiments in the vein of Carl Walters, it is still essential to predict whether the outcomes pose unacceptable risks that would outweigh the benefits of learning through experimentation.

Preview of Needs

Sound environmental decision making requires forecasts that are

  • more comprehensive in terms of input considerations, outcomes and effects

  • sensitive to threshold effects (nonlinearities)

  • better linked to valuation of outcomes and effects so that they can assist policy makers and the public to understand the magnitude of the costs, risks, and opportunities

  • provide a strong sense of how people are affected

  • perceived as credible2 if credibility is deserved

  • convey the degree (and nature) of their uncertainty, such that hedging strategies can be developed

For the forecasting effort (as distinct from the substantive forecast content) to make the most effective contribution to the decision process, it should

  • engage decision makers in the process so that they can ensure the relevance of the choice of what is forecasted and gain confidence in the process

  • focus decision makers’ attention on emerging problems and opportunities

  • provide adequate participation for stakeholders (although what is adequate depends on the specific property rights regime, legal mandates, and other contextual factors)

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