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Evidence, Uncertainty, and Wicked Problems in Climate Change Decision Making in Australia


  • Brian W Head

    (Institute for Social Science Research, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia)


Policy makers have had great difficulty in understanding and responding effectively to complex or ‘wicked’ problems. Contentious policy initiatives are hard to implement when knowledge bases are divergent and incomplete, when short-term interests conflict with long-term benefits, and when problems are construed or framed in very different ways. These features of wicked problems have been central in Australian debates about initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to address the likely impacts of climate change. Given the closely interconnected nature of social, technical, legal—political, economic, and natural-resource issues, the political challenges of managing adaptive change are numerous. A strategic adaptation framework is necessary to complement ongoing mitigation efforts directed at greenhouse gas reduction. Strategic innovation requires pluralistic and adaptive processes, such as multistakeholder forums, consideration of scenario analyses, and the use of boundary organizations. In light of the highly contested nature of the issues, the multiple bases of knowledge and interests, and the provisional nature of adaptation choices, there are major policy governance challenges facing the Australian government and stakeholders in grappling with climate adaptation.

Suggested Citation

  • Brian W Head, 2014. "Evidence, Uncertainty, and Wicked Problems in Climate Change Decision Making in Australia," Environment and Planning C, , vol. 32(4), pages 663-679, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:envirc:v:32:y:2014:i:4:p:663-679

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    1. repec:spr:climat:v:149:y:2018:i:3:d:10.1007_s10584-018-2240-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Alison Rothwell & Brad Ridoutt & William Bellotti, 2016. "Greenhouse Gas Implications of Peri-Urban Land Use Change in a Developed City under Four Future Climate Scenarios," Land, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 5(4), pages 1-23, December.
    3. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:10:p:1830-:d:114654 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:6:p:983-:d:100727 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Castán Broto, Vanesa, 2017. "Urban Governance and the Politics of Climate change," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 1-15.
    6. Kanowski, Peter J., 2017. "Australia's forests: Contested past, tenure-driven present, uncertain future," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 56-68.


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