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Global Environmental Change: Understanding the Human Dimensions
determining which technological options are pursued and adopted? Basic research on conditions governing the occurrence and diffusion of innovations can provide a basis for analyzing the focused question of what institutional factors influence the extent to which successful innovations have beneficial or detrimental environmental effects. Progress in this area has great potential to underpin the development of policies aimed at mitigating environmental change or increasing the robustness of social systems in the face of change.
2e: Decision Making in Response to Global Environmental Change. How do individuals, firms, communities, and governments come to perceive changes in environmental systems as requiring action? How do they identify possible responses and assess the probable consequences of such responses? Are there cultural differences in the way human communities deal with such issues? Uncertainty is a prominent feature of most global environmental changes. Because of the complexity of large physical and biological systems, it is often impossible to predict major changes in environmental systems; it is even hard to attach probabilities with any confidence to different possible trajectories of change. To understand human responses to global change, therefore, we need to learn more about individual and collective attitudes toward risk, factors affecting propensities to launch anticipatory responses, and the complexities of collective decision making when consequences may be profound but not experienced until much later. In this context, it may prove helpful to consider the literature on risk assessment and human behavior in the face of natural hazards as sources of insights into human responses to global environmental changes.
2f: Environmental Conflict. How will global environmental changes intensify existing social conflicts or engender new forms of conflict? What techniques of conflict resolution or conflict management are likely to prove effective in coming to terms with these conflicts? Global environmental changes are likely to cause major realignments of ideologies and interests and, in the process, to intensify existing conflicts and precipitate new forms of social conflict among groups espousing divergent belief systems, holding different value priorities, or pursuing incompatible interests. There is a need to think systematically about conflicts arising from the expectation that future global change will benefit some social groups, countries, or generations at the expense of others; from direct consequences of global environmental change, such as migrations of environmental refugees or pressures to redraw borders in the face of changes in agricultural productivity; and from long-