Dealing with surprises in environmental scenarios

Toth FL (2008). Dealing with surprises in environmental scenarios. In: Environmental Futures - The Practice of Environmental Scenario Analysis (Developments in Integrated Environmental Assessment, Vol.2). Eds. Alcamo, J., Amsterdam: Elsevier. ISBN 9780444532930 DOI:10.1016/S1574-101X(08)00408-0.

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Abstract

This chapter identifies a large array of applications of different types of environmental scenarios. It provides a concise overview of different types of surprises one might consider for inclusion in environmental scenarios. The selection of a particular scenario and surprise depends on many factors: the bounding and complexity of the issue, the objectives of the scenario development and use, the client or intended user of the scenario and many others. Given the large number of possible combinations, it is not practical or simply impossible to give detailed guidance for choosing the scenario type and the surprises to be included. Therefore, our strategy has been to provide some general guidance about the compatibility of different kinds of surprises into environmental scenarios according to their purpose (ranging from scientific assessment to curiosity/speculation) and their function (for-input or self-contained). This chapter also provides some guidance about what could be effective ways to think creatively about the various surprise types in the scenario creation/analysis process. Drawing on selected techniques developed and applied in futures research, possible ways of envisioning surprises are elaborated. The actual approach to incorporating surprises in the scenarios can follow one of two principle ways. One can develop a surprise-free scenario and inject surprises as the last step to check directly or to help check indirectly the robustness of the main scenario components with respect to drivers far away from the range of expectations. Alternatively, one can start with identifying a range of relevant surprises, build the scenarios around them and conduct a thorough plausibility check in the end. For most scenario exercises, the fruitful and practical way to go is in between: to identify and incorporate surprises as a regular part of the scenario elaboration procedure. The process of including surprises in scenarios always begins with a discussion of why to include surprises and how they will be useful to the scenarios' end users. The most important questions to be answered are: What type of scenario should be used? ("For-input" or "self-contained"?) And, what is the strategy for including surprises? (As a foundation for building the rest of the scenario; as an organic part of the scenario construction process; or, added as an afterthought once the scenarios are almost completed?) The answers to these questions depend on the characteristics of the problem, the perceived or stated user needs, and the purposes of the scenario. Once these questions are resolved, the type of surprise can be chosen (see Table 8.1) based on available time, budget, and expertise. After the types of surprises are selected, they can be elaborated using one of the methods listed in Table 8.2 (perhaps with some adjustment to the method). Finally, a good and flexible process for constructing the surprises and scenarios is essential, although this doesn't guarantee success. All we can say with confidence is that work on surprises will itself be full of surprises.

Item Type: Book Section
Research Programs: Modeling Land-Use and Land-Cover Changes (LUC)
Bibliographic Reference: In: J. Alcamo (ed.); Environmental Futures - The Practice of Environmental Scenario Analysis (Developments in Integrated Environmental Assessment, Vol.2); Elsevier, Amsterdam, Netherlands pp.169-193
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 08:41
Last Modified: 17 Feb 2016 12:30
URI: http://pure.iiasa.ac.at/8645

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