The Role of Risk Assessment in a Political Decision Process

Lathrop, J.W. & Linnerooth, J. (1981). The Role of Risk Assessment in a Political Decision Process. IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-81-119

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In this paper, we will demonstrate the ways in which risk analyses have been used in a controversial siting issue, the siting of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in California. The conflicting and contradictory results of these studies, we will suggest, is a predictable and important element of the political debate. Not unlike many other areas of scientific investigation, it is difficult, if not impossible, to arrive at indisputable scientific truths especially where the data is scarce and subjective. Yet, because the risk studies are highly quantitative, imitating in some sense technical , engineering studies, they generate false expectations regarding the conclusiveness of the results. These studies are often seen as pursuing the truth or facts of the situation; yet, they cannot provide unambiguous facts. For this reason, risk analyses should be regarded as introducing necessarily ambiguous evidence into the policy process. Viewing the results of a study as "evidence" instead of "facts" offers a more realistic perspective for improving the uses of these studies, or for improving the studies themselves.

The intent of this paper is to describe the results, interpretations, and uses of three risk studies prepared during the course of the attempted siting of an LNG terminal in Oxnard. California. The decision process is briefly presented in Section II, and the three studies are described in the context of this process in Section III. In the final section, we draw some tentative conclusions regarding an improved role of technical analyses in aiding or improving siting decisions.

Item Type: Monograph (IIASA Working Paper)
Research Programs: Management and Technology Area (MMT)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 01:49
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:10

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