'Policy for environmental change: info-gap response to uncertainty' with Prof Yakov Ben-Haim

Past Event

02 November 2016, 6:00pm - 7:00pm

School of Geography and Environment
South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QY

This event is organised by the Environmental Change Institute. Professor Yakov Ben-Haim is visiting Oxford as an Oxford Martin Visiting Fellow.

On 2 November 2016, Yakov Ben-Haim (Israel Institute of technology) will be coming to the School of Geography and the Environment as part of the ECI Big Ideas Seminar.

The talk will be followed by a drinks reception for an opportunity to network, chat and mingle.

History is full of surprises: the Fukushima tsunami and nuclear disaster (March 2011), the tsunami in the Indian Ocean (December 2004) where it was not at all expected (unlike the Pacific Ocean where tsunamis are far more common), the rapid market penetration of Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) in the US with resulting higher CO2 emissions, surprisingly acidic rain in hardwood forests of New Hampshire in the 1960s, and so on. Uncertainty, ignorance, and the potential for surprise are all unbounded, and the unknown future is a major challenge in strategic planning and policy prioritization.

There is a moral imperative to do one's best when making high-consequence decisions. However, our understanding is often wrong and we are frequently surprised by innovations and events. Using our faulty models in trying to optimize policy outcomes is infeasible, even irresponsible. The practical implication of severe uncertainty is that we must ask: What outcomes are required? What performance is essential? How can we be robust against surprise? We consider two examples: the innovation dilemma in remediation, and the paradox of optimal monitoring and surveillance.