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Risk prediction is necessary to prevent policy paralysis

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Risk prediction is necessary to prevent policy paralysis.

Danil Sarewitz, Director of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes at ASU, Ph.D. in Geological Sciences, Cornell University, Roger Pielke, Professor in the Environmental Studies Program, University of Colorado, and Mojdeh Keykhah, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Global Environmental Assessment Project, Risk Analysis, August 2003, An International Journal, Vol. 23, Issue 4, Blackwell synergy

All decisions include some informal assessment of probabilities. If one lives on a flood plain it would probably be foolish to devote enormous resources to protecting against asteroid impacts. Thus, vulnerability management is implicitly underlain by some sense of what is reasonable and what is not. We might term this sense "naïve expectation," in that it is not informed by sophisticated quantitative predictions about specific risks. Rather, it may be informed by history, by general scientific insight (e.g., floods occur on flood plains), by judgment acquired through personal experience, by personal priorities (e.g., "any risk to my child is too much risk"), or other means. So our point is not that vulnerability is divorced from probability, but that vulnerability management does not depend on precise predictive quantification of specific future events or classes of events.In spite of these well-documented cases, the focus in the climate change debate seeks ever more accurate quantification of unverifiable greenhouse risks through predictive science. As we have argued elsewhere, such an approach likely fosters gridlock and inaction; meanwhile, climate-related losses mount around the world.(3)

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