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Journal of R isk R esearch 1 (2), 165–185 (1998


Imaginable su rprise in glo bal change scie nce
D epartm ent of B iological Sciences and Institu te for International Stu dies, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305–5020, USA

B . L . T U R N E R II , H O L L Y M O R E H O U SE G A R R IG A
G eorge Perk ins M arsh Institu te and Gradu ate School of G eography, Clark University, W orcester, M A 01610, USA

A bstract D ecisionmakers at all scales (individuals, rms, and local, national, and international gove rnmental organizations) are concerned abou t reducing their vulnerability to (or the likelihood of) unexpected events, ‘surprises.’ A fter brie y and selectively reviewing the literature on uncertainty and surprise, we ado pt a de nition of ‘surprise’ that does not include the strict requirement that it apply to a wholly unexpected outcome, but rather recognizes that many events are often anticipated by some, even if not most observers. Thus, we de ne ‘imaginable su rprise’ as events or processes that depart from the expectations of some de nable community. Therefore, what gets labelled as ‘surprise’ depends on the extent to which what happens departs from community expectations and on the salience of the problem. We offer a typology of su rprise that distinguishes imaginable su rprises from risk and uncertainty, and develops several kinds of impediments to overcoming ignorances. These range from the need for more ‘normal science’ to phenomenological impediments (e.g., inherent unpredictability in some chaotic systems) to epistemological ignorance (e.g., ideological blocks to reducing ignorance). Based on the input of some two dozen scholars at an A spen Global Change Institute Su mmer Workshop in 1994 *, we construct two tables in which participants offer many possible ‘imaginable surprises’ in the global change context, as well as their potential salience for creating unexpectedly high or low carbon dioxide emissions. Improving the anticipatio n of surprises is an interdisciplinary enterprise that should offer a sceptical welcoming of outlier ideas and methods.

1. Surprise! Ozone hole discovered over A ntarctica in 1985
G iven all the modern satellite technology in the possession of NA SA and other U S agencies, it is ironic that the opening of a hole in the ozone over the Sou th Pole in the late 1970s went u ndetected for years. The satellite instru mentation did not fail u s; rather, the compu ter progra ms written to diagnose the vast volu mes of satellite data were speci cally instru cted to reject measu rements that diverged sharply from expected
*The au thors wish to thank the members of 1994 A spen G lobal Change Institu te Workshop for two stimu lating weeks of discu ssions on which mu ch of this article is based. In particu lar , we appreciate the extensive comments, reference su ggestions and other assistance we received from J.X. Kasperson, and the help in modifying Fig. 1 from D avid Victor.

1366-9877 © 1998 E & FN Spon


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normal conditions. For example, every time a very high or low valu e came in, the compu ter progra ms omitted it. The rejected valu es were called to no one’s attention. Incredibly, the phenomenon overhead went u ndetected by ou r high- technology for nearly a decade. R ather, incredu lou s British scientists, plotting by hand their own grou nd- based records of how mu ch u ltraviolet (U V) radiation was reaching the earth’s su rface at their station on the coast of A ntarctica (Farman et al., 1985) , detected a steady decrease in the springtime ozone in the sou thern hemisphere from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s. This u nexpected phenomenon immediately triggered a reprogramming of the U S data to allow all valu es, and there in beau tifu l living (false) colou rs for all to see (ideal for television) were maps showing a deep hole in the ozone over the A ntarctic continent growin g in intensity over time and drifting over nearby oceans and continents. This example shows that, sometimes, the knowable remains u ndetected because of the assu mptions or views that frame the qu estion or methods of analysis.

2. Not so surprising: climatic surprises are imaginable
In the wake of the heat waves, res, and drou ghts of 1988, media coverage of global warming exploded. Not su rprisingly, so did congressional hearings on climate. R obert Watson, then NA SA scientist and later head of the U S delegation to the plenary session of the 1995 Intergove rnmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) testi ed to the Senate E nergy Committee 1 that ‘scienti c u ncertainty is a thing that scares me more than absolu te knowledge. The fact that we have said that climate cou ld possibly change dramatically and qu ickly has me concerned. The A ntarctic ozone thing came as a su rprise.’ To that remark, New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley pressed the panel of scientist witnesses to specu late ou t-lou d on what kinds of su rprises they had in mind. O ne of u s (SH S), after qu ipping that su rprises are things you don’t know abou t, nonetheless followed with a list of highly u ncertain, bu t plausible ou tcomes, like a ip- op in North A tlantic ocean cu rrents, a su rge in polar ice masses, or u nexp ected regional patterns of climate response to bu ild-u ps of greenhou se gases. O ther witnesses also had their hu nches as to a nu mber of su ch possible ‘su rprises’. The willingness of the witnesses to specu late on speci c ‘su rprises’ illustrates that scientists, as well as members of the pu blic, deal often with the anticipation of the ‘u nexpected’! Strictly speaking, a su rprise cannot be anticipated; by de nition it is an u nexpected event. Potential climate change, and more broadly global environm ental change, is replete with this kind of su rprise – the tru ly u nexpected – because of the enormou s complexities of processes and interrelationships involved and ou r insu f cient u nderstanding of them (su ch as cou pling ocean, atmosphere, and terrestrial systems) (e.g., D armstadter and Toman, 1993a ; Broecker, 1994; Casti, 1994; Chapter 1 and Su mmary for Policymakers, IPCC, 1996) as well as ou r improved u nderstanding of the existence of chaos in su ch complexity (e.g., Cohen and Stewart, 1994; R obinson, 1982). The IPCC (1996) Su mmary for Policymakers conclu des:
‘Fu tu re u nexpected, large and rapid climate system changes (as have occurred in the past) are, by their nature dif cult to predict. This implies that fu tu re climate changes may also involve “surprises.” In particular these arise from the non- linear natu re of the climate system. When rapidly forced, non- linear systems are especially su bject to unexpected behavior.’

See chapter 2 of Schneider, 1990, for details on this hearing.

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Yet, by focu sing on the perceptions of and responses to environm ental events by the pu blic and expert commu nities alike, as indicated in the Senate E nergy Committee exchange noted, the existence of a different kind of ‘su rprise’ emerges, one that can be anticipated (Kates and Clark, 1996) . R isk-hazard and related research demonstrates repeatedly that the event, process, or ou tcome registered as a su rprise by the community in qu estion was frequ ently known or forecast by others or the same event was knowable within the competing frameworks of u nderstanding (D armstadter and Toman, 1993b) . This message also emerged from the 1994 A spen G lobal Change Institute (A G CI) session on ‘A nticipating G lobal Change Su rprise,’ (A ppendix 1) the resu lts of which we, the co-chairs (Schneider and Tu rner, 1995) of that session, report here. We sketch the rationale u sed to reach the conclu sion that the search for anticipated su rprises constitutes a fru itful avenu e of research and then present the resu lts of exercises to identify what some of these su rprises might be, how they cou ld affect the impacts of climate and other global changes, and how we might enlarge or focu s ou r vision of this kind of su rprise.

3. From uncertainty to surprise: a brief review
Su rprise is an attribu te of events or interpretations of them that is closely akin to the related attribu tes of risk and u ncertainty. Variou s meanings of these attribu tes may be fu sed at times, owing to the different commu nities and cu ltures employing them. The interdisciplinary risk-hazard research commu nity, however, has devoted considerable attention to this and related concepts, a brief review of which informs this work. Much of the cu rrent work on su rprise has grown ou t of an extensive body of research on u ncertainty.2 Yet, althou gh widely acknowledged and studied, u ncertainty remains a dif cu lt concept to de ne or codify. D ifferent conceptu alizations and approaches to u ncertainty abou nd in the literature, crossing nu merou s elds of study and tou ching a wide range of prob lem types. Two basic options are invariably followed in the face of u ncertainty, however. The rst is to redu ce the u ncertainties throu gh data collection, research, modelling, simulation techniqu es, and so forth. Following this option, the objective is to overcome u ncertainty, to make the u nknown known. But the dau nting nature of u ncertainties su rrou nding global environmental change, as well as the need to make decisions before the ‘normal’ science option can provide resolu tion, force a second option – that of managing or integrating u ncertainty directly into the decisionmaking or policy-making process. Before u ncertainty can be so integrated, however, the nature and extent of the u ncertainty mu st be clari ed. This u nderstanding is approached in several ways, which we brie y review here. The elds of mathematics, statistics, and more recently physics, provide the ‘science of u ncertainty’ with many powerfu l means and techniqu es to conceptu alize, qu antify, and manage u ncertainty, ranging from the frequ ency distribu tions of probability theory, to the possibility and belief statements of Bayesian statistics, and even to a method for qu antifying ignorance (between belief and disbelief) fou nd in D empster-Shafer theory (for examples see Tonn, 1991; A yyu b et al., 1992; Yager, 1992). A ddressing other aspects of u ncertainty, fu zzy set logic offers an alternative to classical set theory for situations where the de nitions of set membership are vagu e, ambigu ou s, or non- exclu sive
For early discu ssions on this su bject, the reader is directed to the literatu re cited, as well as the following: Clar k and Mu nn, 1986; Kasperson et al., 1988; Kates, 1985; Svedin and A niansson, 1987; Timmermann, 1986; and Toth et al., 1989.


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(e.g., Z adeh, 1965, 1990). More recently, researchers have proposed chaos theory and complexi cation theory to focu s on expecting the u nexpected in models and theory (e.g., Casti, 1994). The practical application of many of these techniqu es was originally pioneered by researchers in decision analysis (see R aiffa, 1968) . In the elds of economics and decision theory, researchers continu e to study rational decision making u nder u ncertainty and how to assess the valu e of collecting additional information (e.g., Clemen, 1991). Methods for modelling risk attitudes, leading to the terms risk-prone and riskadverse, attempt to capture how different people faced with making a decision react to the u ncertainty su rrou nding the expected ou tcomes. Looking towards fu ture ou tcomes in projecting climate change impacts and estimating marginal costs and benets of mitigation effor ts, economists su ch as Nordhau s (1991, 1993) and Yohe (1991, 1993) explicitly address u ncertainties, and discu ss methods for better measu ring nonlinearities leading to su rprises. In the context of energy, tables of possible, bu t u ncertain, risks of alternative energy systems have been prepared (e.g., Schneider, 1979). U ncertainty and, in its related context, su rprise, are treated largely as the realization that events, cu rrently u nknown, will occu r affecting the nal ou tcome of a decision. This acknowledgment of u ncertainty has fou nd a prominent place in many other elds of study, each one speaking its own langu age of u ncertainty. For example, researchers making risk assessments and setting safety standards nd it most u sefu l to distingu ish between risk (the probability of a certain negative effect resu lting from a hazard occu rrence, given the speci ed level of exposu re), variability (inter-individu al differences in vu lnerability and su sceptibility), and u ncertainty (model parameter variability and any u nexplained residu al) (e.g., Bogen and Spear, 1987). This three-pronged distinction provides information on u ncertainty tailored to the needs and research qu estions of the risk analyst. R esearchers in other elds of study, for instance compu ter science, may be most interested in addressing other aspects of u ncertainty, su ch as how it affects the decision ow or logic of the compu ter system. Thu s, in writing for other compu ter scientists, Bonissone and Tong (1985) su ggest a conceptu alization that identi es fou r sou rces of u ncertainty in an expert system: (i) inaccu racy in the set of facts making u p the knowledge base; (ii) imprecision in the decision ru le representation langu age; (iii) incomplete information; and (iv) aggregation of ru les from different knowledge sou rces. The above examples are not meant to imply that separate u ncertainty analyses follow strict disciplinary bou nds. While the last two examples offer approaches to u ncertainty targeted speci cally to their respective disciplines, some of the concepts are clearly transferable to other disciplines and to other types of decision making processes, including those concerning global environmental change. Consequ ently, research on u ncertainty cross-cu ts a nu mber of different disciplines. In work related to hazards and risk, sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists, and geograph ers have made important contribu tions to the discu ssions on risk perception, risk commu nication, and the social ampli cation of risk (D ou glas and Wildavsky, 1982; Fischhoff et al., 1982; Kahneman et al., 1982; Kasperson et al., 1988). Similarly, work on visu alizing or graphically conveying u ncertainty also crosses a diverse set of disciplines including psychology, compu ter science, and geographic information systems (e.g., Butten eld and Beard, 1991; MacE achren, 1992). Du e to its pervasive nature, a desire to u nderstand u ncertainty encou rages researchers to join forces in interdisciplinary projects, conferences, and worksho ps drawing on the wider breadth of knowledge, techniqu es, and experiences. R ecent interdisciplinary

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efforts in the area of global environmental change, including the Intergove rnmental Panel on Climate Change A ssessment, IPCC, (1996) and the R esou rces for the Fu ture work shop (D armstadter and Toman, 1993a ,b), have made u ncertainty an explicit and central research concern, as has a recent A spen G lobal Change Institute Workshop (Moss and Schneider, 1997). G iven the interdisciplinary natu re of the study of global environmental change, it is not dif cu lt to see how research in this eld has drawn on a wide range of techniqu es. These activities and accomplishments notwithstanding, the answer to the qu estion of how to de ne or codify u ncertainty remains u nresolved. Commu nities of researchers tend to develop de nitions and taxonom ies of u ncertainty speci cally related to the types and range of policy qu estions that they address in their research. A lthou gh no all-encompassing typology of u ncertainty exists, the stru ggle to de ne the u nknown aspects of a eld of science serves a very real pu rpose. The typologies make explicit what is not known, and break it down into distinct components. D ecomposing u ncertainty into different dimensions provides insight into the natu re of the u ncertainty. The dimensions also offer some stru cture on how to approach or redu ce the u ncertainties, make the most of available information, and u tilize both what is known and what is u nknown in decision making. O ne of the most extensive and comprehensive conceptu alizations of u ncertainty is that developed by Smithson (1988). Smithson’s taxon omy is based on the sociology of knowledge, in which he moves the applicability of the social constru ctivists’ dictum that knowledge is socially constru cted and negotiated to ignorance; it too is a social constru ction. Thu s, u ncertainty is de ned by Smithson as an incompleteness of knowledge or information that is caused by vagu eness, probability, and ambigu ity. To provide some perspective on how this de nition relates to others in his taxonom y, consider a few more of his categorizations: ignorance is encou ntered when a person fails to agree or show awareness of ideas that another person de nes as actually or potentially valid; error refers to being in an erroneou s cognitive state; taboo is socially enforced irrelevance; and irrelevance is the act of ignoring something. O ther typologies of u ncertainty exist, each making their own contribu tions to the wider u nderstanding of u ncertainty (Brooks, 1986; Fu ntowicz and R avetz, 1990; Faber et al., 1992; Wynne, 1992; Casti, 1994; R owe, 1994; Moser, 1997) . H ere, we will limit the discu ssion to three of these – Fu nctowicz and R avetz (1990), Wynne (1992), and R owe (1994). Selected because they are widely cited and recognized in the global environmental change literature: they provide interesting insights into the role of u ncertainty in science for policy making, and they provide the most approp riate context for the concept of u ncertainty in ou r u sage below. Fu nctowicz and R avetz rank situations on an incremental scale from those possessing low to high levels of u ncertainty. They show how different management approaches correspond with the level of system u ncertainty matched with varying degrees of decision stakes. Where decision stakes and the level of systems u ncertainty are low constitutes, the realm of applied science and the type of u ncertainty encou ntered is technical. A s the decision stakes and the level of u ncertainty increase, the realm of professional consu ltancy and methodological u ncertainty exists. Fu nctowicz and R avetz u se the term ‘professional consu ltancy’ to describe a ‘learned art’ involving personal ju dgment that depends on higher-level, interpretive skills. Science in this realm requ ires the scientist to make qu alitative assessments or ju dgments, setting con dence limits (form al or informal), arou nd methods and estimates. When both the decision stakes


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and the level of systems u ncertainty are high, epistemological u ncertainty is encou ntered in the realm of ‘second order’ science. Fu nctowicz and R avetz u se the term ‘second order’ science to de ne an area ou tside the traditional qu antitative methods of applied science. This term takes into account the postmodernist argu ment that all knowledge is socially constru cted and that science is only one way of produ cing knowledge. When they extend u ncertainty into this realm, Fu nctowicz and R avetz are acknowledging that the u ncertainties identi ed by science are in part de ned by society as a whole. There may be ignorance abou t ignorance. Fu nctowicz and R avetz call for ‘post-normal’ methods of evalu ation to address these issu es, althou gh other terms have also been su ggested (Weinberg (1972) u ses the term ‘trans-scienti c’ and O ’R iordan and Cameron (1994) propose ‘civic-scienti c’). Wynn e (1992) emphasizes that the modelling of environmental risk systems requ ires examination of not only the scienti c evidence and competing interpretations, bu t also investigation of the nature, assu mptions, and inherent limitations of the scienti c knowledge behind the data and the model. H e identi es fou r types of u ncertainty – risk, u ncertainty, ignorance, and indeterminacy – each overlaying dimensions of u ncertainty. R isk refers to a situation when the system behaviou r is well known and the chances of different ou tcomes can be qu anti ed by probability distribu tions. If, however, the important system parameters are known bu t not the associated probabilities, u ncertainty exists. Ignora nce is that which is not known (or even awareness that we do not know it) and, for Wynne, is endemic because scienti c knowledge mu st set the bou nds of u ncertainty in order to fu nction. Indeterminacy captu res the u nbou nded complexity of causal chains and open networks. U ncertainty, in part, stems not only from an incomplete u nderstanding of determinate relationships, bu t from the interaction of these relationships with contingent and u npredictable actors and processes. R owe (1994) de nes u ncertainty as ‘the absence of information, information that may or may not be obtainable’ (p. 743), and identi es fou r dimensions of u ncertainty predicated on their sou rce inherent in any decision making process: temporal (in both past and fu tu re states); structural (du e to complexity); metrical (in measu rement); and translational (derived in explaining u ncertain resu lts). The fou rth dimension, translational u ncertainty, comes into play only after the rst three have been considered. These dimensions can exist simu ltaneou sly in any situation, althou gh one or more may tend to dominate. R owe pays special attention to the issu e of variability and identi es it as a contribu tor to u ncertainty in all dimensions. R owe (1994) does not offer a distinct de nition of variability. H owever, he does identify three primary sou rces of variability: (1) U nderlying Variants – variants inherent in natural systems contribu ting to the spread of parameter valu es, including randomn ess, inconsistent hu man behaviou r, and chaotic or nonlinear dynamic systems behaviou r; (2) Collective/Individu al Membership A ssignment – the distinction between collective behaviou r and a single instance of behaviou r for a parameter; and, (3) Valu e D iversity – varying perspectives and valu e systems among people. A lthou gh different in their characterizations of u ncertainty, all three typologies attempt to expand the conceptu alization to recognize that u ncertainty is not pu rely of a technical or physical or biological character, bu t also social, cu ltural, and institutional in nature. By drawing ou t dimensions of u ncertainty, su ch as epistemological u ncertainty, ignorance, indeterminacy and translational u ncertainty, these conceptu alizations offer insights into the role of u ncertainty and science in global environmental change (Wynne 1980, 1987, 1992; Morgan et al., 1990; O ’R iordan and R ayner, 1991; D overs

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and H andmer, 1995) . In the areas of environmental policy and resou rce management, policy makers stru ggle with the need to make decisions u tilizing vagu e and ambigu ou s concepts (su ch as su stainability), with sparse and imprecise information, in decisions that have far-reaching, and often irreversible, impacts on both environm ent and society. Not su rprisingly, effo rts to incorporate u ncertainty into the decision-making process qu ickly move to the forefront with the advent of decision-making paradigms, su ch as the precautionary principle, adaptive environ mental management, the preventative paradigm or stewardship (e.g., Brown, 1997). A s noted by Wyn ne, the shift towards prevention in environmental policy ‘implies an acceptance of the inherent limitations of the anticipatory knowledge on which decisions abou t environmental discharges [and other environmental problems] are based’ (1992, p. 111). R avetz (1986) takes the concept of ‘u sable knowledge in the context of incomplete science’ one step fu rther by introdu cing the idea of u sable ignorance. To R avetz, acknowledging the ‘ignorance factor’ means becoming aware of the limits of ou r knowledge – an idea we pu rsu e below. R avetz argu es that ignorance cannot be overcome with any amou nt of sophisticated calcu lations. R ather, coping with ignorance demands a better articulation of the policy process and a greater awareness of how that process operates. H e recognizes that one can only replace ignorance by gaining more knowledge, bu t stresses that by ‘being aware of ou r ignorance we do not encou nter disastrou s pitfalls in ou r su pposedly secu re knowledge or su pposedly effective techniqu e’ (p. 429). Following this lead, D overs and H andmer (1995) offer a step-b y-step framework for what they term ‘ignorance au diting.’ In this framework, the policy maker is asked to explicitly de ne the types, causes, and sou rces of u ncertainty – and more speci cally ignorance – affecting the decision at hand. The policy maker then identi es methods to address these u ncertainties where possible and consciou sly implements them within the policy process or management task. The emphasis on managing u ncertainty rather than mastering it can be traced to work on resilience in ecology (most notably by H olling, 1973, 1986) . Whereas resistance implies an ability to withstand change or impact within some measu re of performance, resilience captu res the ability to give with the forcing fu nction, withou t disru pting the overall health of the system. In this framework, adaptation is an ecological mechanism whose aim is not to overcome or control environmental u ncertainty, bu t to live with, and in some case, thrive u pon, it. It is interesting to note that H olling’s classical work did not focu s on u ncertainty per se bu t on su rprise.

4. D e ning surprise
The A G CI session on ‘A nticipating G lobal Change Su rprise’ drew u pon many experts (A ppendix 1) in global environm ental change and from the natural hazards commu nity, most of whom were largely u nfamiliar with the extensive literature noted above. Nevertheless, drawing u pon a portion of it, the resu lting de nitions adopted in the session strongly correspond to principal ideas embedded within that literature. The following is a description of the workshop’s distinctions among the terms as they relate to su rprise: (i) risk – the condition in which the event, process or ou tcome, and the probability that each will occu r, is known.

In reality, of cou rse (coins and u nloaded dice notwithstanding) complete or perfect knowledge of complex systems rarely exists, which wou ld permit the credible calcu lation of


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objective probabilities. Likewise, the fu ll range of potential ou tcomes is u su ally not known. Thu s, risk almost always is accompanied by varying degrees of uncertainty. (ii) u ncertainty – The condition in which the event, process, or ou tcome is known (factually or hypothetically), bu t the probabilities that it will occu r are not known, or are highly su bjective estimates.

Typically, when prob abilities are assigned they are su bjective (or depend u pon su bjective assu mptions – Schneider, 1994), and the ways to establish the reliability of different su bjective probability estimates are debatable (e.g., Morgan et al., 1990; Morgan and Keith, 1995; another A G CI worksh op, this time on methods to deal explicitly and formally with u ncertainty in international assessments, contains fu rther discu ssion and references – H assol and Katzenberger, 1997). (iii) su rprise – The condition in which the event, process or ou tcome is not known or exp ected. In this ‘strict’ meaning, the attribu tion of su rprise shifts toward the event, process, or ou tcome itself – is it a new or wholly u nexpected experience or not? We may expect su rprises to occu r, bu t we are su rprised by the speci c event, process, or ou tcome involved. This meaning, as noted, begs the issu e of anticipation because the very act of anticipation implies some level of knowledge or foresight. It is, therefore, not particu larly interesting or u sefu l for policy pu rposes. O ne exception is those cases where the conditions that might indu ce su rprises – for instance, rapid forcing of non- linear systems as qu oted earlier from the IPCC 1996 Su mmary for Policymakers – are known, even thou gh the actual su rprise events are not. This exception, which we cou ld term ‘imaginable conditions for su rprise’, cou ld have policy meaning, since actions cou ld be propose d to mitigate the conditions in which su rprise might be indu ced (e.g., slowing down the rate of global change forcing, as in Chapter 6 of Schneider, 1997) . Because of the impracticality of the strict de nition of su rprise for policy making, variou s studies advocate the u se of another meaning for su rprise, one in which the attribu tion of ‘su rprise’ shifts more towards the expectations of the observer. H olling (1986: 294) recognized this meaning of su rprise as a condition in which perceived reality departs qu alitatively from expectations. It is this more interpretive or relational meaning of su rprise – one we label ‘imaginable su rprise’ – that portends to be most u sefu l for global change studies. (iv) imaginable su rprise – The event, process, or ou tcome departs from the expectations of the observing commu nity or those affected by the event or process. ‘Seen from this point of view, su rprise abou t one or another aspect of climate change is an after-the-fact reaction to an observation or new scienti c nding that, in some sense, lies ou tside ou r range of expectations’ (D armstadter and Toman, 1993b: 3). A lmost every event may constitute an imaginable su rprise to someone. But since global change phenomena and their environmental and societal impacts are a community-scale set of issu es, little can be gained for ou r pu rposes by focu sing on whether someone, somewhere, may or may not have once predicted or hinted at some su rprise event. More fru itfu l is the recognition that grou ps, commu nities, and cu ltures may share expectations su ch that a particular event is likely to qu alify as a su rprise for most within them. In these cases, what gets labelled as a su rprise depends u pon the extent to which

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reality departs from commu nity expectations, and on the salience of the problems imposed. Imaginable su rprise applies to commu nities of experts, policy makers, managers, and edu cators who share common ranges of expectation that are generated by grou p dynamics, leaders and signal processors, including the dominant edu cational and research paradigms (Kasperson et al., 1988). For these commu nities, shared expectations follow from dominant interpretations among the expert commu nity (e.g., global warming is likely, NR C, 1992 or IPCC, 1996) , from their t with broader policy agendas (e.g., environmentally benign economic development is possible), and from vested interest, consciou s or u nconsciou s, of an agency or grou p to maintain a particular view (e.g., global popu lation growth is environmentally damaging, or, alternatively, good for the economy – e.g., Myers and Simon, 1995). Since policy making often re ects a blend of pu blic and interest grou p perceptions of reality, the imaginable su rprise formu lation is mu ch more relevant to global change policy issu es than a strict de nition of su rprise as an u nimaginable ou tcome.

5. A typology of surprise
The distinction between ‘strict’ su rprise and ‘imaginable’ su rprise is important bu t not su f ciently developed to be very u sefu l for dealing with su rprise phenomena. More exhau stive treatments of the su b-categories of su rprise or the sou rces of su rprise reveal that there are signi cant nu ances with important implications for global change stu dies or policies (Kates and Clark, 1996). Ju st as with u ncertainty, different de nitions and typologies of su rprise have been propose d. Brooks (1986), for example, offers a simple tripartite typology: (i) u nexpected discrete events (su ch as the oil shocks of 1973 and 1979 or the Three Mile Island reactor incident); (ii) discontinu ities in long-term trends (su ch as the acceleration of U SA oil imports between 1966 and 1973); and (iii) the su dden emergence into political consciou sness of new information (su ch as the relation between u orocarbon produ ction and stratospheric ozone). This typology focu ses on the qu alitative nature of the disju ncture between the event as it occu rs and the event as it was anticipated. Timmerman (1986), in contrast, focu ses on the increasing intensity of the effects of su rprises, distingu ishing fou r types of su rprises: anomalies, shocks, epiphanies, and catastrophes. In this typ ology, su rprises are rated on a scale from anomalies whose effects are barely noticed to catastrophes that cause u nrecoverable damage. A typology by Faber and colleagu es (1992) is particularly u sefu l for the ‘imaginable’ meaning because it highlights the relationships between the sou rce of su rprise and the observer, in particular identifying different sou rces of ignorance that in u ence what is registered as a su rprise by the observer. Since ignorance, or its opposite, u nderstanding, in large part shapes expectations, the A G CI session, post-session review, and ou r own su bsequ ent work has led u s to develop a variant of the Faber-Manstetten-Proops typological map (Figu re 1) that emphasizes the sou rce of the expectations themselves and the impediments to changing them. The Faber-Manstetten-Proops version recognizes the distinctions made above between risk and u ncertainty, and imaginable su rprise. Because the two former involve events, processes, and ou tcomes that are known (expected) by most in the commu nity, even if the probabilities are not fu lly u nderstood, we may label imaginable su rprise associated with risk and u ncertainty as a ‘qu asi-su rprise.’ We do not address these categories, althou gh we su ggest that the impediments to u nderstanding imaginable su rprises

SOURCES OF EXPECTATION OUTCOMES ALL KNOWN Risk Uncertanty (probabilities (probabilities known) not known)

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imaginable surprise



OPEN EXPECTATIONS (willingness and ability to recognize that some outcomes are not known)

CLOSED EXPECTATIONS (unwillingness to recognize that some outcomes are not known)



Personal Impediments (due to level of individual learning)

Communal Impediments (due to level of "normal" science directed toward the issue)

Epistemological Impediments (due to the ways communities organize or view the world)

Phenomenological Impediments (due to inadequacy or fundamental limits in existing technology and the full range of known analytical perspectives)


Fig. 1. Sou rces of differences in imaginable su rprise: typological map.

that we articulate below also have some applicability for assessing qu asi-su rprise – i.e., risk and u ncertainty. Imaginable su rprises occu r among events, processes, and ou tcomes that are not all known: the other path from sou rces of expectation on ou r typological map. This path divides fu rther on the ability of the observer to change expectations, either ‘closed’ or ‘open’ in kind. Closed expectations are simplest, as they involve denial of the possibility of u nexpected ou tcomes and thu s an u nwillingness (entrenched ignorance) even to consider the possibility of a larger range of events or u nderstanding. This sou rce of su rprise cannot be changed u nless cognitive alternatives are entertained by the observer and, by de nition, to entertain su ch alternatives engages avenu es of open expectations, the more complex and interesting path in ou r typological map. O pen expectations – or the recognition or acknowledgment that all events, processes, and ou tcomes are not known – is fu rther su bdivided into ‘easy-’ and ‘hard-to-enlarge’ expectations. The ‘easy’ su b-categor ies involve two impediments: personal (those of the individu al), which can be enlarged throu gh learning; and commu nal (those of grou ps, commu nities and cu ltures), which are enlarged throu gh the application of more ‘normal’ science, i.e., research. The research process is that of open experimentation and critiqu e, often leading to improved u nderstanding, and hence expectations. Personal learning or

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‘edu cation’ can lead an observer (or research can edu cate a commu nity) back to the ‘qu asi-su rprise’ category of risk and u ncertainty, shown by the dashed line in the gu re. A s we note below, however, nu merou s barriers impede this process of enlarging expectations by learning and research, and these barriers need to be u nderstood explicitly and taken into account in any attempt to redu ce su rprise. The ‘hard’ su b-categories include two major classes of impediments to improved expectations. Phenomenological impediments involve the su ite of factors that act as barriers to knowledge-bu ilding, at least in the short ru n, su ch as inadequ ate technology or modes of analysis. This su b-categor y shou ld not be confu sed with closed expectations or open expectations of the commu nal kind. Closed expectations rest within the rigid, u nchanging belief system of the observing commu nity, whereas commu nal impediments can be overcome in principle by providing more attention to the problem set in qu estion by applications of existing ways of knowing. Impediments of the phenomenological kind, in contrast, rest in the sometimes momentary inadequ acies of the tools and skills of the commu nity. Non- momentary, fu ndamental limits may also exist, su ch as the inability to forecast accurately weather details beyond a few weeks. U npredictability, owing to the chaotic nature of large-scale atmospheric dynamics, is an example (e.g., Lorenz, 1969) . A lthou gh so-called normal science may well lead to breakthrou ghs that will one day permit credible forecasts past cu rrently believed predictability limits, it remains possible (even likely) that no amou nt of commu nal research effort can lead to a breakthrou gh that wou ld breach this apparent phenomenological impediment. Finally, epistemological impediments follow from the ways in which the variou s observing commu nities view the world and bu ild their u nderstanding within it (e.g., the compu ter progra mming that missed the ozone hole). If alternative epistemologies will not be explored in principle or because of social conventions, closed exp ectations will exist, even if u nconsciou sly. For this set of ‘open’ su b-categories, however, the epistemological impediment follows largely from an u ncritical belief in a favou red view, perspective, or paradigm: the kind of view inherent in the progra mming of data analysis in ou r ozone story. Science now well knows that it operates by way of prevailing paradigms (ou r epistemologies) that gu ide u nderstanding, and hence expectations, for particular commu nities. A paradigm may dominate for a time, providing conditions temporarily not dissimilar to closed expectations. Science commu nities are u su ally su f ciently diverse, however, to maintain competing paradigms that constantly challenge the prevailing perspective. When these challenges are su ccessfu l (i.e., provide better u nderstanding), the commu nity eventu ally adopts the alternatives. It is important to recognize that contemporary behaviou ral and social sciences – an important component of the study of imaginable su rprise in climate change – has been in a prolonged state of competing paradigms that constantly challenge one another (Gu ba, 1990). Ou r ru dimentary typology (Figu re 1) is u sefu l for at least two reasons. First, it places su rprise in relation to observing commu nities, providing a logic for the ‘imaginable’ kind. A nd second, the categor ies in the typolo gy provide clues abou t how to deal with su rprises associated with the sou rce of expectation, a su bject to which we will retu rn below.

6. Some glo bal climate change surprises derived from an expert community
The 1994 A spen G lobal Change Institu te session on ‘A nticipating G lobal Change Su rprise’ involved experts from the variou s ‘dimensions’ of global change research:


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Table 1. Candidate global-change ‘su rprises’ for the climate change example [Most of the entries re ect discu ssions at the 1994 A G CI Su mmer Session on A nticipating G lobal Change Su rprises (Schneider and Tu rner, 1995). The entries, edited by the au thors, are examples and not intended to be either comprehensive or independent.]. A . Su rprises in anthropogen ic cau ses of climate change D evelopment l Sou th remains proportionately behind the North in economic development. l Transfer of wealth from Sou th to North accelerates, widening the economic disparities between the two. l A n u nderclass of nations is maintained owing to the diminished process of globalization. Political organization / structu re l The nation state weakens, leading to con ict and collapse of economic growth. l Political economy of Ru ssia leads to large- scale resou rce degradation / depletion, especially deforestation. H ealth l World mortality patterns are transformed by the emergence of a new, highly contagiou s viru s. l Medical breakthrou gh increases life expectancy substantially. l Chemical pollu tion causes signi cant health effects in hu mans and other species, possibly redu cing fertility or creating demands for redu ction in su lfate emissions in A sia and Russia and in the u se of agricu ltural biocides worldwide. Popu lation l Hu man popu lation growth rate does not signi cantly decrease; the demographic transition does not stay on track globally. l Smoot h popu lation trajectories foreseen in all standard projections of world popu lation become woefu lly inaccurate in the face of sharp departu res from monotonic trends. Technology / policy l Fu nding stops for technology development that wou ld facilitate a cost-effective low-carbon fu ture. l Montreal Protocol to redu ce emissions of ozone depleting su bstances weakened by refu sal of some developed countries to pay their agreed-u pon shares to help developing cou ntries acqu ire su bstitutes. Personal valu es l Change takes place in the political consciou sness of the valu e of natu re. E conom y l The global market does not control local allocation of natu ral resou rces, especially for land and water u se; rather non- market institu tions (e.g., command-and- control econom ies, qu asi-market economies, local institutions) remain important. l Insuf cient economic growth and alternative migration patterns work to stabilize or reverse the rates of deforestation in Sou th A merica and sou th-east A sia. E nergy / resou rces l India matches China in CO 2 and su lfate emissions. l Several catastrophic nu clear plant accidents lead to ban on nu clear power before inexpensive non- carbon backstop technology is available. l A very inexpensive, low-carbon backstop technology is developed (e.g., fu el cells). l China bu rns mu ch of its coal withou t signi cant improvement in produ ction or end-u se ef ciency.

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Table 1. Continu ed
l l



China shifts to low-carbon alternative energy sou rce (e.g., nds ample su pply of natu ral gas or develops viable biomass indu stry). Energy u se reverts to a parallel track with economic growth because (i) the cost of energy conservation proves too expensive or politically intractable or (ii) a switch from an indu strial to a service econom y proceeds slowly, or both. CO 2 emissions from developing cou ntries do not increase.

B . Su rprises in non- anthropogen ic cau ses of climate change O ceanic l A redu ction in ‘conveyor belt’ oceanic overtu rning leading to cooling at high latitudes occu rs, despite general (bu t slower) global warming. l H eat stored in the ocean at intermediate depths is released to the atmosphere, leading to rapid warming. l D imethyl sul de emissions decline with redu ced sea ice, causing clou d brightness to decrease and warming to accelerate. l D imethyl sul de emissions change with sea-su rface temperature change. G eophysical l A ntarctic volcanoes lu bricate ice-stream ow causing glacial su rge and rapid sea level rise. l Changes in volcanism is indu ced by change in climate (e.g., via sea level change). A tmospheric l Stratospheric cooling causes increased stratospheric clou ds and greater loss of ozone at high latitu des. l O zone depletion accelerates du e to lax compliance with Montreal Protocol or refusal of certain states to live u p to their commitments. O ther l The G reenland ice sheet su rges. l H igh latitude forests are not a su stained CO 2 sink. l Positive or negative biogeochemical feedbacks become signi cant to climate forcing. l Solar radiation increases (decreases) by 0.5% , dramatically enhancing (redu cing) anthropogenic warming. C. Su rprises in environm ental consequ ences For natu re l D ifferential movement of species ranges in response to global environmental change causes irreversible or very long-term ecological damage (extinction or cascading effects). l Warmer climate becomes more stable. l Warmer climate becomes less variable. l Enhanced hydrological cycle leads to unanticipated extreme oods or drou ghts. l Clou d liquid water content increases causing increased clou d re ectivity which restrains warming. l Increased snow accu mu lation compensates faster ou t ow in West A ntarctica when the R oss Ice Shelf disintegrates l Land-cover stabilizes in Sou th A merica. l Hurricane intensity changes signi cantly with warming. l Synergism of habitat fragmentation, arti cial chemicals, introdu ction of exotic species and anthropogenic climate change affect ecosystems in u nforeseen ways that redu ce biodiversity.

Table 1. Continu ed

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Spatially varying (regional scale) competing forces create u nforeseen regional climate anomalies (e.g., land-u se changes, aerosols or troposphe ric ozone).

For society l R egional climate anomalies lead to econom ic and political dislocations. l R egional environmental degradation has global impacts on economic and political systems, which feed back on climate policy responses. D . Su rprises in hu m an response to the advent or prospect of global change Technology l G eo- engineering is adopted, works as intended and mitigates most anthropoge nic climatic changes at low costs. l G eo- engineering is practised intermittently by only a few nations causing international political con icts and greater environmental instability. Policy / International accords l The climate convention increases funding for low-cost, low-carbon backstop technologies. l The creation of expanded wildlife reserves and migration corridors lowers impact on biodiversity. l More credible climate-change scenarios and better understanding of regional climate impacts identi es speci c winners and losers and thereby destroys consensu s in the international commu nity for emissions redu ctions. l CO 2 bu ild-up in the atmosphere stalls for ve years, derailing the climate convention process. l Intense drou ght, forest res, devastating oods and powerfu l tropical storms create an ‘emissions control’ stampede. Valu e/Norms l Society of the twenty- rst centu ry chooses to be relatively carbon- free and resilient to climate change. l Society of the twenty- rst centu ry chooses to maximize growth in G D P and ignores potential long-term climatic consequ ences.

natural, social, and policy sciences. These participants were less involved with theoretical issu es like typologies of su rprises and more attu ned to actual global change problems. Therefore, they were asked to imagine what kinds of events, processes or ou tcomes within their domains of expertise wou ld qu alify, in their view, as (imaginable) su rprise. O r, to reverse the qu estion, imagine what qu ali ed as su f ciently deviant from conventional views that many within each expert commu nity wou ld be su rprised shou ld it occu r (or not occu r). Not su rprisingly, some of the responses su ggested su rprises that were opposites, re ecting instances in which members of variou s expert commu nities held polarized or u nclear positions, both within and across su ch commu nities. Table 1 lists the imaginable global change (bu t linked to climate change issu es) su rprises generated, grou ped into fou r broad categories: (A ) anthropoge nic and (B) non- anthropogenic cau ses or ‘forcing-fu nctions’ of change, (C) environmental consequ ences of these forcing fu nctions, and (D ) hu man response to the advent or prospect of climate changes. Some of the su rprises are pegged to speci c ou tcomes, others have more general implications. Some are immediately associated with the su rprise to which

G lobal change science


they are linked (proxim al relations), while others constitute u nderlying factors (distal relations) that operate throu gh variou s media before connecting to global change. For example, u nder the su bheading of health (anthropoge nic causes) is this su rprise: world mortality patterns are transform ed by the emergence of a new, highly contagiou s viru s. The su rprise here is that su ch patterns might be affected su f ciently as to lower the rate of global popu lation growth su bstantially, thu s redu cing variou s demands on land and fossil fu el consu mption that contribu te to greenhou se gases. E ach of the more ‘distal’ entries shou ld be read analogou sly. Tables 2A and 2B take some of these candidate global climate-change su rprises and rework them according to their t by ‘su rprise arenas,’ thu s linking each directly to a speci c ou tcome. The rst arena (Table 2A ) involves the scenario that by 2050 greenhou se gas concentrations are far higher than wou ld be typically anticipated; carbon sinks become saturated or emission rates escalate, or both, thereby causing concentrations to be mu ch greater than a radiative equ ivalent of dou bling CO 2. The A G CI expert commu nity wou ld be su rprised bu t can imagine, for example: if research and development on low carbon sou rces of energy were effectively to cease; or if the general trend to slower popu lation growth (the demogr aphic transition) faded, thu s driving u p demands for energy; or if deforestation of Siberia were a major sou rce of greenhou se gases. The second arena (Table 2B) explores su rprises that provide the opposite scenario for 2050; greenhou se gas concentrations are lower than expected and the rates of their deliveries continu e to fall. For instance, most of ou r exp ert commu nity wou ld be su rprised bu t can imagine if this scenario followed from strongly implemented international accords, su ch as those to lower carbon dioxide emissions; rapid deployment of low carbon ‘backstop’ technologies, su ch as hydroge n fu el-cell-powered cars; or because deforestation stabilizes in the tropical world.

7. Improving the anticipation of surprise in global change
A lthough we cannot explore the sou rces of every su rprise that appears in ou r tables, as this wou ld requ ire an extensive research endeavou r, most of them wou ld t well within the categories of the ‘open expectations’ path in ou r typological map. Those su rprises involving the environm ental forcing fu nctions and consequ ences of climate change often tend to follow from inadequ ate attention given to the problem (commu nal impediments) or ou r inability at this time to measu re or model adequ ately the processes involved (pheno menological impediments). E xamples of commu nal impediments include:
l l l

D imethyl su l de emissions decline with redu ced sea ice. Climate variability changes with global temperature rise. Hu rricane intensity changes with global warming.

E xpanded conventional research efforts cou ld, in principle, redu ce ignorance and thu s alter expectations in these catego ries. E xamples where fu ndamental levels of knowledge of baseline data or fu nctional relationships create signi cant phenomenological impediments include:
l l

Cascading ecological effects (e.g., where loss of one species causes a dramatic pest explosion). Land- cover changes in Sou th A merica.


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Table 2. Candidate global climate change su rprises arranged so that they (A ) create a condition mu ch exceeding a dou bling of CO 2 by 2050, and (B) create a condition of mu ch less than dou bling of CO 2 by 2050. A . G reenhou se gas concentrations are far m ore than equ ivalent to a dou bling of CO 2 by 2050 – More than 50% of incremental CO 2 remains in the atmosphere, sinks become satu rated, and world emission rates grow sharply – (i) No signi cant policies are adopt ed because l improved u nderstanding of climate impacts identi es speci c winners and losers, thereby compromising consensu s in the international commu nity for emission redu ctions; l people remain unaware of, or place low valu e on, environmental impacts like biodiversity loss; l of the weakening of the nation state leading to con ict and collapse of treaty obligation enforcement D ecarbonization of the energy system stops because l R &D on low-carbon sou rces halts; l nu clear accidents cause a shu tdown of all nu clear plants; l China continu es its commitment to coal u se; l India increases coal-based energy signi cantly. E nergy/G NP ratio stops declining because l the D emographic Transition (birth rates decline following increased af u ence) does not take place in the developing world; l fossil energy prices remain low; l cost of energy conservation proves too expensive to implement; l a transition to a service-dominated economy in the non- Western world proceeds slowly. Increased deforestation takes place because l Siberia incu rs major deforestation and degradation; l the developing world remains propor tionately behind the econom ies of the developed world, leading to su stained land-cover changes.




B . G reenhou se gas concentrations are far less than equ ivalent to a dou bling of CO 2 by 2050 – World emission rates peak and decline in the near fu ture – (i) Strong international agreements to constrain emissions are implemented. l D ramatic weather extremes motivate political action. l Biodiversity preservation becomes of major societal value. R apid decarbonization of energy systems takes place because l low-cost biomass alternatives are developed; l arti cial photosynthesis is mastered; l inherently safe, inexpensive nu clear power is developed; l large natu ral gas discoveries are made in India and China; l China and Brazil develop a large biomass-energy indu stry; l fu el-cell-powered cars trigger an ef cient, hydrogen- based economy. E nergy/G NP ratio declines sharply because l low-energy u sing technology is improved and adopt ed globally; l development increases per capita G NP sharply in developing world. World economic growth rates decline sharply because l of the demise of the nation state leading to con ict and collapse; l of the emergence of a new, qu ick-acting and highly contagiou s viru s redu cing popu lations globally. Minimal deforestation takes place because l land-u se cover stabilizes in Sou th A merica and elsewhere in the tropics.





G lobal change science


Some of the su rprises involving anthropogenic causes of and responses to climate change involve these kinds of impediments, bu t many more also follow from variou s commu nities preferred (consciou s or not) perspectives and interpretations and their inability to reconcile the differences across commu nity perspectives (epistemological impediments). For example:
l l

A n u nderclass of nations is maintained owing to the diminished process of globalization. Ideological preconceptions and nationalism lock ou t political consciou sness of ‘global commons’ problems at scales larger than nation states.

In either of these cases, competing epistemologies have fu ndamentally different (and often irreconcilable) interpretations of the intent, fu nction, and ou tcomes of the prevalent capitalist system as well as abou t the priority to be given to economic versu s other social stru ctures in these interpretations. R ecognizing that commu nal, phenomenological, and epistemological in u ences on the range of exp ectations pu t restrictions on the range of imaginable su rprise, the global change commu nity can tap variou s means of dealing with them. For example, global change studies are forced to deal with the (i) connectivity and (ii) complexity of natu ral and hu man systems which, in turn, requ ire that problem domains, disciplines, and perspectives be crossed (also D armstadter and Toman, 1993b, p. 3). Connectivity and complexity may ru n cou nter to the predominant approach to prob lem solving in modern science – to increase u nderstanding by ever narrowing and re ning problems and analyses – often within well-de ned disciplines. Su ch approaches, of cou rse, carry with them implications for ou r three impediments. We su ggest that some of the problems inherent in complexity and connectivity can be ameliorated: (a) by su pporting work at and across the edges of the research cores that dominate the problem domains, disciplines, and perspectives (e.g., Schneider, 1988; Tu rner, 1991); (b) by complementing small- and large-scale approaches; and (c) by encou raging the role of synthesis and synthesizers in both (a) and (b). None of these su ggestions denies the fu ndamental importance of research within cores and by the core specialist – the dominant cu rrent disciplinary science approach – or the recognition that the root of global change studies involves systemic processes (e.g., embedded su b-cycles within the global nitrogen cycle), each of which mu st be u nderstood as completely as possible at smaller scales. It does, however, argu e for more integration and better balance among activities that cou ld be labelled synthesis-edges versu s specializationcores. It is also important to recognize that systemic processes at large scales may not be captu red adequ ately by a focu s on the patterns or trends of su bsystems at small scales and that improved u nderstanding can be gained only by cycling back and forth between small- and large-scale levels of analysis, what R oot and Schneider (1995) call strategic cyclical scaling. G lobal climate change research, for example, is, as it shou ld be, dominated by the leading scientists and science centres (natu ral and social). These individu als and institutions typically develop and share common views and opinions abou t variou s facets of the problem su ch as the likelihood that climate warming is taking place and the central role of models in the analysis. The dominance of these commu nities in the academies and, hence, their role in agenda-setting for research and research fu nding (e.g., see the debate on this issu e between Bru nner, 1996, and E dwards, 1996), may obscu re alternative views and theses, making it dif cu lt for the alternatives to be evalu ated properly (i.e., leading to epistemological or commu nal impediments). Since global


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change science, both natural and social, remains in a range of developmental stages, the u nknowns are su f ciently large to warrant attention to divergent themes abou t similar processes and ou tcomes. To facilitate this range of research, measu res shou ld be taken to ensu re a more open discou rse and evalu ation of alternatives, su ch as (a) by a more open airing and professional evalu ation (as oppo sed to u ncritical, ‘equ al time’ and equ al credibility often afforde d to polarized viewpoints in the popu lar media – e.g. Schneider, 1990, Chapter 7) of less dominant or u nconventional views, including those by advocacy science and scientists; and (b) by redu cing the redu ndancy of research focu sed on the dominant views and theses while still preserving a diversity of approaches within dominant paradigms, that is, create research ‘overlap-withou t-cloning.’ Finally, global change portends alterations to the basic processes that gove rn the state of the biosphere. G lobal-change research, therefore, might do well to anticipate these alterations, an effort that will requ ire u s to do more than study extant processes and conditions alone. Variou s modes of analysis and approaches appropriate for su ch explorations, bu t typically u nderu tilized in the research commu nity, shou ld be encou raged. A mong these are: (a) backcasting scenarios from posited fu ture states and/or reconstru cting past scenarios in alternative ways to identify events or processes that might happen (recognizing, of cou rse, that diffu sion processes u su ally are not reversible and diffu sion-dominated systems cannot be meaningfu lly backcast); (b) increasing attention to and su pport for the study of ‘ou tlier’ ou tcomes, searching for the reasons they appear deviant and the lessons that might be drawn from them (e.g., H assol and Katzenberger, 1997); and, (c) exploring the ‘resilience’ paradigm (e.g., precautionary principle) alongside the ‘optimization’ paradigm (e.g., cost-bene t analyses) to inform policy making and diagnose alternative ou tcomes and risk management strategies. O ther means of improving the anticipation of su rprise in global change science wou ld emerge from convening additional expert grou ps and asking them for more exhau stive assessments of the issu es than we have attempted here. We su spect, however, that balanced assessments will consistently lead to recommendations that ‘research as u su al’ be tempered with more ‘less-than-u su al’ or even u nu su al research alternatives. Improvements in dealing with scienti c su rprise in climate change in particular and global change in general, therefore, requ ire the research and fu nding commu nities to seek a better balance among traditional and experimental research alternatives (also Kates and Clark, 1996: 31). This aim, in turn, requ ires strategies that will facilitate this balance, including the dif cu lt problem of assessing ‘qu ality’ in an interdisciplinary context (e.g., Schneider, 1988). O f cou rse, strategies that shift resou rces to more problem-oriented, high risk, or integrated studies are hard enou gh to fashion with exp anding research su pport bu dgets, let alone the cu rrent situation where traditionally federally fu nded global change research (and its standard measu res of excellence) are increasingly u nder scru tiny by ideological ‘anti-big-gove rnment’ politicians or bu dget-cu tting-for-its-own- sake legislators. Nevertheless, we contend that the biggest societal and environmental returns on research investments may, at least at the margins, lie in the su pport of u nconventional studies focu sed on identifying and u nderstanding ou tlier ou tcomes of the variou s interconnected global change ‘experiments’ now u nder way on Planet E arth.

James L. Sweeney D ept. of E ngineering E conomic Systems and O perations R esearch, Stanford

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