Uncertainty and the Environment: Implications for Decision Making and Environmental Policy

Richard Young


‘The disturbance of an ecosystem is a unique, one-off event which involves, in the author’s terms, “hard uncertainty”. This book makes a major contribution to environmental economics by tackling this issue head-on. Young articulates the Shackle theory and evaluates it with a case study of the Belize Southern Highway. In doing so he makes a major contribution to Shacklean economics by conducting “laboratory experiments” with some of the personnel associated with the project and provides fascinating original material on the impact on the ecosystem. He demonstrates how Shackle’s theory can be used in decisions that involve environmental concerns.’

- J.F. Ford, Emeritus Professor, University of Birmingham, UK

This thought provoking book is concerned with the need to deal adequately with uncertainty in environmental decision making. The author advances a critique of the use of traditional models and then develops an alternative model of decision making under uncertainty, based on the work of George Shackle.

Richard Young forwards a critique of the conventional expected utility approach and, using an alternative conceptualization of environmental uncertainty, contends that there are a number of different modes of uncertainty and that many environmental decisions are characterized by what is termed ‘hard uncertainty’. The presence of hard uncertainty radically alters the way in which environmental uncertainty can be dealt with at both an epistemological and a practical level and poses a number of problems for traditional decision making frameworks based on probability. The author goes on to apply the model to a case study of the Belize Southern Highway - the first major application of Shackle’s theory in the context of environmental economics. Detailing and explaining practical and theoretical approaches, this book will interest and inform those in the fields of environmental economics and environmental science, geography, economics and socialscience, as well as decision makers in governmental and non-governmental agencies.

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