Applied Energy 86 (2009) 258–264

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Foxes, hedgehogs, and greenhouse governance: Knowledge, uncertainty, and international policy-making in a warming World
David Michel *
Center for Transatlantic Relations, The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, 1717 Massachusetts Avenue, NW Suite 525, Washington, DC 20036, USA

a r t i c l e

i n f o

a b s t r a c t
Global environmental challenges like greenhouse warming are characterized by profound uncertainties about the workings of complex systems, high stakes as to the costs and benefits of various possible actions, and important differences concerning the values that should shape public choices, confounding ready resolution by conventional decision-making procedures. So-called adaptive or reflexive governance strategies provide policy-makers an alternative framework for tackling the greenhouse problem. Adaptive governance employs deliberate experimentation and continuous learning-by-doing to test and adjust ongoing policy responses. Yet pursuing such approaches poses particular challenges to global climate cooperation. In an increasingly interdependent world, coordinating multiple parties experimentally adopting different climate measures could prove contentious. Unequivocal policy lessons may be difficult to draw and apply. Timely collective revisions to ongoing policies may prove more difficult still to define and agree. Advocates must engage these issues directly and develop means of addressing them if adaptive governance approaches are to allow policy-makers to formulate better strategies for combating climate change. Ó 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Article history: Received 16 October 2007 Received in revised form 7 May 2008 Accepted 8 May 2008 Available online 17 June 2008 Keywords: Climate policy Uncertainty Adaptive management Adaptive governance

1. Introduction Conventional decision frameworks for climate policy-making seek to determine the optimal choice among an array of alternatives. Standard techniques call upon the expertise of natural and social scientists to construct quantitative representations describing the workings of relevant environmental and socio-economic systems and how they are connected. Given a set of objectives parties wish to attain and a consistent metric to value them – dollar costs, temperature change, composite measures combining multiple indices – policy analysts can deploy these modeling tools to forecast the expected results of various potential courses of action. Decision-makers may then rank alternative policy outcomes according to their desired selection criteria – cost-benefit ratio, realized warming, total utility – and identify the best option to achieve their preferred future among the projected possibilities [1]. Global greenhouse policy-making thus constitutes an exercise in applied foresight. Once emitted, greenhouse gases (GHGs) remain in the atmosphere for 10s, 100s, even 1000s of years, imposing an inevitable inertial warming commitment on the climate system [2]. Once constructed, power plants, industrial facilities, transportation systems, etc. remain in use for decades, perpetuating their installed technology base with their associated emissions
* Tel.: +1 202 468 7315; fax: +1 202 663 5879. E-mail address: 0306-2619/$ - see front matter Ó 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.apenergy.2008.05.004

patterns until the end of their economic lifetimes. So too, developing and deploying new energy sources, mitigation technologies, and adaptation measures will be the work of many years. Climate abatement policies, then, must be considerably more preventive than remedial. At their core, prevailing decision procedures rely on the expectation that improving knowledge will endow climate science with sufficient predictive power to anticipatively steer effective greenhouse strategies. Many scientists and policy-makers have long held this model unsatisfactory. Rarely, if ever, will the sole ‘‘climatological facts” science can establish translate directly into ‘‘political facts” prescribing particular policy measures [3]. Irreducible uncertainties will always plague greenhouse understanding, confounding presumptions that ever better information can point climate policies to converge asymptotically to the ideal. In contrast to the predominant paradigm of optimization and control, analysts working in a number of disciplines have begun to elaborate an alternative orientation to environmental policy-making. Variously termed reflexive governance, adaptive governance, or adaptive management among other labels, these strategies advocate intentionally experimental approaches to policy construction, gleaning practical lessons from deliberate policy tests to guide ongoing ‘‘fuzzy” course corrections. They espouse determinedly pluralistic and participatory stances towards formulating policy preferences and objectives. And they advise acute attention to the interdependence of social and ecological systems in enacting and adjusting policy interventions [4–7].

2. On the contrary. government agencies. Gaps in our understanding of greenhouse mechanisms combine with the indeterminacy of future emissions and inherent unknowns in societal reactions to global warming to sow a ‘‘cascade of uncertainty” from comprehending climate processes to determining climate forcing to assessing climate change impacts to fashioning policy responses [12]. and the carbon intensity of primary energy supply [24]. ‘‘then our economic models will not only signal that a strenuous effort to slow or prevent future climate change is necessary but help devise the scope and timing of policy responses. policy-makers will be reduced to deferring difficult decisions or plunging into blind gambles [8]. By 1979. Advocates must engage these issues directly and develop means of addressing them if adaptive governance approaches are to help policy-makers formulate better strategies for combating climate change. has cautioned. is unclear. Indeed. Or worse. tree rings. But if climate sensitivity is 4.5 °C. 6]. will thereby ensure increasingly apposite policy actions. and climate damages.54 °C and boost market damages 229%. say . Human unpredictability Inherent unpredictability in socio-economic systems fogs greenhouse foresight even more than does imperfect comprehension of climate mechanisms. Numerous studies testing the predictive prowess of various international organizations. Effective policy requires accurate knowledge. myriad questions remain.6 billion in 2050. ‘‘very long horizons. Thirty-year forecast errors average 15%. Michel / Applied Energy 86 (2009) 258–264 259 Adaptive governance approaches could make a valuable contribution to international climate policy. Uncertainties concerning natural climate systems feed into uncertainties about the extent and effects of human interference and vice versa. as the European Union and others favor. Science exposes. warming. Over longer. by clarifying climate complexities. asserts economist William Nordhaus. some prominent analysts contend that. If climate sensitivity to doubled CO2 is 1. Science’s ability to vanquish such uncertainties is limited at best. and emissions totally eliminated soon after 2050 [14]. Scientific understanding sets the prior foundation for rational deliberation and decision by the policy community. Yet as Lawrence Klein. Still. increasing control The current climate regime supposes a linear relation between greenhouse knowledge and greenhouse action. absent expert guidance. Climate knowledge has expanded exponentially since French mathematician Joseph Fourier first identified the natural greenhouse effect nearly two centuries ago [11]. allowing annual carbon emissions to swell two-fold by mid-century.5 to 14 billion in 2100 [28]. The first major international assessment of glo- bal warming dates to 1971. sometimes in under a decade. ‘‘If scientific evidence indicates that calamitous consequences are likely”. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that augmenting the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide (CO2) content to twice pre-industrial levels – the customary yardstick for measuring climate sensitivity – would lift global average temperatures between 1. Today’s unprecedented forcing may tip climate patterns into similarly sudden transitions. technological changes – rather than in natural systems [23]. and other sources reveals relatively small perturbations have repeatedly tripped abrupt global and regional climate shifts. unknown future energy needs in the developing world represent the single greatest factor muddying long-term global emissions. essentially present levels.4 billion people worldwide to a high of 10. 2.5 °C and 4. Yet their implementation in the global greenhouse raises a number of questions. Climate policy conundrums: reducing uncertainty. America’s National Research Council situated climate sensitivity between 1. labor productivity. Nobel laureate for his contributions to economic modeling.2.5 °C and 4. current UN population scenarios stretch from a low of 7. In an increasingly interdependent world. greenhouse relevant horizons. Additional investigation can expand as well as elucidate greenhouse ambiguities.5 °C [16]. None of these factors readily yields to prediction.5 °C [13]. Yet greenhouse science can now neither pinpoint critical climate triggers nor definitely gauge how much unwitting pressure humanity is exerting upon them [13. p.5 °C. Scientific advances. The basic forces behind CO2 emissions are expressed in an equation known as the Kaya identity: CO2 Emissions ¼ Population  ðGDP=PopulationÞ Â ðEnergy=GDPÞ Â ðCO2 =EnergyÞ Global carbon dioxide production is a function of population. and private firms have concluded that their 1. would demand stabilizing concentrations at 700 parts per million by volume (ppmv). the IPCC has neither conclusively narrowed this range nor established an agreed probability density function across it [13]. Timely collective revisions to ongoing policies may prove more difficult still to define and agree. CO2 concentrations would have to be held to 380 ppmv. When or whether human inquiry can so master nature’s mysteries. Reading macroeconomic runes is no easier. Thirty years later. and from 5.22].21. a 50% increase in the income elasticity of developing countries’ energy demand would raise projected warming for 2100 by 2. though. while predicting populations more than 30% too high for 1-in-10 countries and 20% too low in another 1-in-10 [25–27]. Crucial climate impact thresholds may be 5-year forecasts typically miss national GDP growth rates by an average of one to two percentage points. Our future lies not in the stars. energy use per unit of economic output. According to one analysis. but in our models” [10. depending on the rate of warming as well as total temperature rise [20]. Politicians and the public may inject their own inexpert opinions to justify selectively biased or essentially arbitrary choices [9]. coordinating multiple parties experimentally adopting different climate measures could prove contentious. an appreciable error when annual growth rates generally measure a few percent at best [29–31].1. Most of the largest uncertainties clouding future temperature change and climate impacts reside in social variables – energy demand. Indeed. politics disposes. heightened attention to climate complexities has shown distinctly unpleasant surprises may lurk among global warming’s many unknowns.D. recent studies have reported climate sensitivity could fall outside the IPCC estimates. perhaps reaching as high as 11 °C [17–19]. Unequivocal policy lessons may be difficult to draw and apply. income per capita. Climate policy must look much farther down the road. Twenty-year forecasts go astray by 11% on average. Alone. Scientific uncertainty Persistent uncertainties hamper definition of greenhouse mitigation goals and practicable paths to attaining them. then limiting global warming to 2 °C above pre-industrial temperatures. Human pressures could exacerbate greenhouse uncertainty as rising emissions risk triggering rapid non-linear responses. bounding and quantifying uncertainties. 2. Paleoclimatic evidence preserved in ice cores. It figured climate sensitivity to growing carbon concentrations at 2 °C [15]. Analyses revisiting past global population projections make clear the difficulties facing long-range demographic divination.

requires practical actions distributed across and empirically grounded in particular contexts. and with natural systems in dynamic patterns of cause and effect. iterative cycle.0–50. further assessment. environmental economists. from individual behaviors to the conduct of companies.1. some scenarios playing out disparate initial assumptions ultimately produced quite similar cumulative emissions. The technological changes that could eventually transform the emissions equation also notoriously resist prediction.260 D. By sounding out the spectrum of stakeholders that generate and experience environmental risks – and those that will effect and be affected by the responses – adaptive governance aspires to cultivate broad civic engagement that can enhance the political legitimacy of and consequent public commitment to policy actions [5. and the contingency of human action in the context of long-term system change” [45. India. what Funtowicz and Ravetz have termed a ‘‘post-normal science”. . and technology trends. Rather than accumulate lessons ad hoc as ancillary residuals of measures already adopted. attempts to illuminate how climate policies could impact technological innovation and vice versa remain highly contingent upon assumptions and linkages built into the models [36]. both the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol (KP) require regular review and both anticipate re-evaluation and revision ‘‘in the light of the objective of the Convention. and important differences concerning the values that should shape public choices. . Adaptive governance therefore seeks wide participation in the policy process. KP Article 13. adaptive strategies simultaneously apply different measures to the same problem in different locations. 7]. and ecological development. [t]he activity of science now encompasses the management of irreducible uncertainties in knowledge and ethics and the recognition of different legitimate perspectives and ways of knowing” [41. Long-range energy forecasts have historically erred egregiously in figuring regional. . Decision-makers thus weigh potential policies for their heuristic value as well as expected effects on problem issues. 3. leading to better outcomes. more than the present emissions of fellow emerging giants Brazil.357 billion metric tons of CO2. uncertainties accumulate to unsettle projections for climate policy. Addressing such challenges . In this vein. changes that in turn may threaten multiple human interests. Even this broad margin may not snare the truth. [are] really outside the scope of systematic. adaptive approaches look to expand the information base underpinning policy design and decision. . Michel / Applied Energy 86 (2009) 258–264 10. Policy performance is then evaluated. these effects would be those decision-makers sought. 33]. Despite substantial recent progress. however. The difference between the high and low scenarios for China alone equals 2. In their most rigorous form. ‘‘Whereas science was previously understood as steadily advancing the certainty of our knowledge and control of the natural world. careful forecasting or extrapolation” [32. high decision stakes as to the costs and benefits of various possible actions. In an interdependent world. p. and natural scientists found the climate change damage functions predicted by each group contrasted considerably. Principles of adaptive governance Adaptive governance takes an expressly experimental approach to developing climate policy and understanding. adaptive management consciously constructs explicit policy tests to assay the feasibility and results of alternative treatments. and additional corrective actions [42]. . and conflicting conclusions in expert assessments. caveats. In reality. But the very complexities and ambiguities that push policy-makers to call on expert insight can engender multiple qualifications. A retrospective review of the EIA’s anticipative acumen revealed actual 2000 GHG production in every one of the top four world polluters fell completely outside the respective high-low emissions brackets forecast for each of them in 1995. pervasive nonlinear processes and reciprocal feedback loops ensure virtually any measures enacted in tightly coupled socio-ecological systems – even those tried and tested in adaptive experiments – will entrain 3. Ideally. reflexive governance urges decision-makers ‘‘take account of the complexity of interlinked social. these circumstances render objectives of prediction and control based upon comprehensive elaboration and application of scientific laws elusive if not illusionary. Adaptive governance also stresses the social dimensions of environmental risk management. environmental policies will interact with each other. Reflecting this reality. .4). just five years before [38]. and countries. technological. Then various possible responses are devised. socio-economic. Each diverging estimate in turn suggested the need for mitigation responses of notably differing rigor [39]. 193]. Mexico. Rather than furnishing decision-makers with a constant map and compass for navigating the climate labyrinth. sectoral. Meeting these challenges can require modifying many different practices intersecting at many different scales.2. National and global energy projections fare little better. and South Korea combined [37]. One study examining the distinct judgments of mainstream economists. Such contributions must strike many politicians as a slender reed on which to build potentially momentous policy choices. Adaptive governance. 178. their overall results regularly mask sizable underlying but offsetting inaccuracies. From one term of the Kaya identity to the next. From these. .44]. Adaptive approaches make ‘‘learning-by-doing” not just an accessory but a primary aim of policy choice from the outset [43]. Reflexive governance: managing uncertainty for adaptive action Global environmental changes like greenhouse warming are characterized by profound uncertainties about the workings of complex systems. p. p. 445]. on many crucial questions science can now deliver no more categorical counsel than a ‘‘carefully worded set of subjective probabilistic estimates in which our (often low) confidence in such estimates accompanies any likelihood statements” [40. Finally. goes further. In the eyes of many analysts. policy-makers decide specific actions and implement the chosen measures. Standard models of the policy process describe a multi-stage.0 years. Particular issues are first identified and defined as policy problems. Adaptive governance aims to fulfill this role. current US Energy Information Agency (EIA) estimates reckon global carbon emissions could climb anywhere from 43% to 77% by 2030. communities. the experience gained in its implementation and the evolution of scientific and technical knowledge” (UNFCCC Article 7. conducting comparative policy trials targeting specific hypotheses and probing particular options. Within this span. potentially leading to policy adjustments. and technological premises. Science’s promise to pilot decision-makers through the shoals of greenhouse uncertainty is predicated on the availability of clear climate information and the fluid integration of expert knowledge into policy formulation. . all cardinal considerations for global warming planning [33–35]. A major IPCC study exploring several potential storylines for the human drivers of climate change found cumulative carbon emissions through 2100 varied more than three-fold according to the scenarios’ demographic. By surveying the range of knowledge perspectives available in the scientific and policy communities and in civil society. Though sometimes tolerably on target in estimating total energy use. Myriad human activities may contribute to given environmental changes. fuel mix. In others. small variations in underlying factors spawned widely diverging results [24]. with other social policies and projects. p. .

Adaptive managers will need to devise specific procedures and institutional arrangements to effectively overcome the challenges inevitably arising from the combined commitment to experimental policy development. if adaptive strategies are indeed best pursued in regional or national fora. They must do more. they have advanced contrasting proposals for pursuing adaptive greenhouse governance. regional. Adaptive governance offers a theoretically attractive model for confronting the policy problems posed by greenhouse warming. Providing ‘‘innovator firms” with incentives and guarantees to systematically explore and expand the technology frontier. Dowlatabadi recommends regulators partner with industry [50].49]. and the signposts relevant for forging climate policy in the international arena may not be practicable or pertinent for national or sub-national decision-makers. But how would such programs spread promising new technologies to the many polluters located beyond the national regulators’ remit in countries not party to the original partnership? The IPCC and other bodies established under the climate regime are well positioned to gather and disseminate data on the various policies undertaken by the parties. Scarce resources can be redirected to measures providing the most purchase on the climate problem. As anthropogenic pressures on the world environment have mounted. and focusing down the policy process to organize actions. Adaptive governance should foster adaptive strategies. maintain the requisite integrated experimentation may be best suited to policy-making at the city.D. the unpredicted and unwelcome as well as the anticipated and desired. global cooperation could significantly further information sharing and transnational policy learning [48. on the other hand. will in turn condition the formulation and execution of subsequent policy interventions. While advocates largely concur on the merits of adaptive approaches. a growing host of analysts have called for deploying adaptive strategies against global perils like climate change [6. Keeney and McDaniels develop a tripartite model comprising preliminary measures to foster learning about the greenhouse problem and spur creation of policy options. decision-makers can pragmatically appraise how various options perform in the field. Through structured experimentation. Peterson et al. But each also leaves important unanswered questions. These different perspectives plot several paths decision-makers might take towards adaptive climate governance. 4. Applying adaptive governance in a warming World Reflexive governance advocates have persuasively laid bare the deficiencies of present climate policy treatments and proposed a potentially powerful alternative. Some proponents focus on processes to structure adaptive governance over time. near-term emissions reductions to lessen the severity of climate change. on the other hand. Adaptive governance engenders fundamental tensions between opening up the policy process to engage the manifold complexities and contingencies of interwoven socio-ecological systems on the one hand. the hedging actions realizable. Decision-makers should build instead on the existing treaty regime. Unforeseen negative outcomes can be headed off. greenhouse impacts. and clashing values surrounding greenhouse decision-making. Michel / Applied Energy 86 (2009) 258–264 261 both intended and unintended consequences. seeks not just to amass information but to ameliorate practice. So. These outcomes. revising policy tools and recalibrating objectives to reap the beneficial opportunities and repair the deleterious side effects occasioned by its own workings. Enhanced reporting and review merely apprises parties of each other’s activities. expanding stakeholder participation. implementing adaptive governance poses thorny questions of its own. What then is the appropriate scope for enacting adaptive frameworks and what institutional architectures would best enable them? National regulators are naturally placed to partner with vanguard firms to nurture technological innovation. Empowered to promulgate incentives and controls. and national levels [53].48–53]. Adaptive management. 3. ‘‘Institutional arrangements must be complex. and technological innovations. they can entice or compel other firms to adopt approaches proven successful. and Stern argue adaptive strategies can be scaled to the global commons through interconnected layers of institutions encompassing different geographic scales [6]. policy-makers could try out the costs and benefits of various controls before establishing market mechanisms or regulatory mandates to spread successful instruments to other companies. how are they to be integrated into global objectives rather than fragmented among separate policy islands? If. By exploiting the diversity of policies already underway around the world as de facto case studies. Some suggest adaptive techniques are more tractable in limited areas. Many of these questions reflect the challenges of turning techniques designed for handling localized issues finally falling under one political authority to tackling a worldwide problem falling across multiple political boundaries. p. then evaluate the results and turn their lessons to crafting further policy sets to be assessed and adjusted in turn.2. 1910] to govern the climate commons. centralized experiments possible in domestic settings. Yet they have devoted rather less attention to articulating specific means and methods for policymakers to successfully carry out adaptive strategies. For the most part. Others contend many tools employed to resolve local resource problems could help manage transnational issues. and steps to promote certain overarching objectives such as maximizing international and intergenerational equity [52]. Reflexive governance thus entails the continuing monitoring and modulation of ongoing processes. Exploring a number of alternative treatments concurrently also permits policy-makers to prepare a portfolio of instruments suited to diverse scenarios. Other proponents focus on particular actors. they have so far sketched only the general outlines of an adaptive management framework. and nested in many layers” [6. how are these arrangements to be coordinated to avoid a tangle of disparate actors working at cross-purposes? The learning goals reachable. . As decision-makers learn more about emissions trajectories. bolstering data collection and reporting requirements. high stakes. and extending attention to the wider field of interactions and interdependencies inhabiting dynamic policy environments. and rationalizing and reorienting review mechanisms. doubt international climate politics will permit the kind of concerted. Precisely because of the deep uncertainties. Dietz. Parties would implement this policy suite for an initial 20-year period. Lempert and Schlesinger put forward a similar policy triptych composed of ‘‘shaping actions” to generate new knowledge and alternatives. redundant.47]. ‘‘hedging actions” to diminish vulnerabilities to adverse eventualities. Thompson and his colleagues. Adaptive frameworks for greenhouse governance Adaptive techniques were originally developed for managing resources and ecosystems at smaller and intermediate scales like fisheries and pest control [46. Ostrom. though. render decisions. and designated ‘‘signposts” or indicators that would alert decision-makers of the need to make mid-course corrections [51]. it should induce parties to incorporate lessons from their own and their neighbors’ actions into improving their own policies. they can draw on this policy menu to fashion strategies appropriate to their circumstances and tailored to unfolding developments. and structure institutions for realizing particular collective ends on the other.

Policy experimentation Reflexive governance must balance the practical benefits decision-makers may obtain from heuristic policy experimentation against the potential costs they may incur to pursue such pedagogical projects. Adaptive governance assumes policy-makers will extend successful programs and end unsuccessful ones. jobs lost. Launching new policies itself creates certain interests. Reflexive governance gives decision-makers the means to learn about these connections and respond to their ramifications. In an interconnected world. are often held up as models for global warming. through collective logrolling as decision-makers judge policy options less for their problem-solving promise than for their political value to cement inter-party bargains. frequently foiled [66]. diluting resources and diminishing policy impacts. partisans of any given measures can often legitimately question the criteria and methods of unfavorable assessments while countering with supportive analyses. prominently worries that a regime where some parties control their emissions while others do not will see significant ‘‘carbon leakage” [69]. Yet as the widely varying cost estimates for implementing the Kyoto Protocol make clear. Many experts hail the ozone regime as a triumph of environmental statecraft that led countries to significantly alter their destructive behavior [60]. or unheeded policy experiences. Judging policy performance requires projecting the anticipated effects of specific measures and defining a baseline case against which actual outcomes can be compared. this party opposing one proposed policy change. prompts certain coalitions. The problem of hydra-headed complexities.. Adaptive approaches aim to let a 100 flowers bloom. In many ways. postponing vigorous mitigation while assorted experiments come to fruition may merely displace wrenching decisions onto the future while potentially foreclosing some options altogether [55–57]. Other analyses. Given the aforementioned ambiguities and uncertainties qualifying policy evaluation. These constituencies can be expected to resist the reduction in their resources and roles – budgets cut. p. and repeatedly revise multiple instruments or swiftly swing from meeting the prerequisites of one policy approach to another [62. Restricting emissions too quickly or by inefficient means risks worse economic dislocations than climate change itself might cause [54]. Indeed. The purpose of policy experimentation is not policy proliferation. This winnowing process may frustrate hopes that inclusive public participation will smoothly sanction and sustain adaptive governance. It is to identify and diffuse best practices while discontinuing less effective treatments. Distributing abatement efforts among exploratory options enhances system flexibility. Many developing states lack the institutional and technical capacities to act on existing risk assessments or effectively implement basic measures. The US. contradictory. for instance. high adaptability can result in significant policy slack. Securing continuing stakeholder commitment may then sacrifice the very flexibility to adjust policies to changing conditions that first recommends the adaptive approach. reevaluate. Here the objections of unexcludable veto-players. Testing an array of alternative actions can help avert some of the prospective pitfalls bedeviling greenhouse policy-making. Kyoto is a case in point. Policy evolution comes. global warming has been called ‘‘the apotheosis of the idea that ‘everything relates to everything else’” [68. It avoids technological lock-in or institutional entrapment in sub-optimal pathways from premature commitments to particular answers while allowing learningby-doing and technology research and development to improve mitigation solutions. Michel / Applied Energy 86 (2009) 258–264 4. occurs most starkly in the international political arena. Reference to policy performance may offer little help to cut this Gordian knot and might even tighten it. Attending to complexity Anthropogenic climate change lies at the intersection of two highly complex systems.65]. much less monitor. the policies undertaken by some can affect the outcomes obtained by others. Other countries worry that American repudiation of the Protocol .1. Dispersing control policies may thus result in greater initial emissions. 4. managed here only to manifest there. Yet the same adaptive strategies that allow policy-makers to engage the interdependencies and ambiguities inherent in dynamic social-ecological systems can create uncertainties and contingencies of their own.63]. society will mostly continue present practices and building additional infrastructure around existing technologies. decision-makers may be unable to translate pragmatic learning into appropriate action. grappling with the climate challenge resembles wrestling with a balloon. Conversely. By multiplying the parties harboring individual interests in the preservation of particular policies while enlisting them all in the search for consensual policy determination. if at all. different models frequently forecast different consequences for the same policy [59]. and harder still to maintain in frameworks of intensive policy experimentation. While diverse possibilities remain in the exploratory phase.g. But the combination of policy experimentation and participatory deliberation rouses the specter of an unappealing alternative. Even where adaptive initiatives successfully add to greenhouse understanding. Ex post policy evaluation must wrestle with the same complexities and uncertainties that saddle ex ante policy formulation. Decision-makers may struggle to derive policy wisdom from equivocal. building infrastructure in risk-prone areas). institutional responsibilities rescinded – that would follow from closing down their policy projects. But policy termination is a politically charged endeavor. however.3. where the planet’s biogeochemical cycles intertwine with humanity’s socio-economic structures. adaptive governance risks producing a ‘‘joint-decision trap” [67]. The Montreal Protocol and subsequent accords regulating ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons. for instance. no guarantee ensures policy experimentation will yield sufficient evidence to adjudicate among alternatives. however.262 D. escalating climate system commitment to future warming. They do not intend all of them to grow. Compounding the challenges of negotiating such trade-offs. though. that party opposing another. Should more rapid or aggressive emissions reductions prove necessary. 183]. making conclusive assessments difficult [58]. tend to perpetuate the status quo. subsidies ended. Stakeholder participation Conflicting interests as well as imperfect information hobble climate policy development. Carbon-intensive industries will simply move from carbon-constrained economies to unregulated ones. Disagreements will likely also surface as to what lessons follow from given results. conclude these treaties did little to modify parties’ policies beyond what they would have voluntarily done in any case [61]. 4. frequently abetted by inapt government policies [64]. And as abundant US examples attest. Carbon-regulating countries will suffer the loss of these businesses while global emissions continue unchanged. Inclusive stakeholder dialogue may successfully referee such disputes. Proponents of adaptive governance look to comprehensive stakeholder consultations to reconcile disparate perspectives and persuade diverse parties that adaptive strategies best serve their collective advantage [51. Such con- sensual understandings may prove difficult to reach.2. social practices often doggedly fail to reflect known environmental hazards (e. empowers certain actors. Efforts to gain a firmer grip on one aspect of the issue may only cause another to bulge more prominently.

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