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Methods for Long-Term Environmental Policy Challenges


  • Robert Lempert

    (Robert Lempert is Director of the RAND Frederick S. Pardee Center for Longer Range Global Policy and the Future Human Condition. Dr. Lempert is an author of the book Shaping the Next One Hundred Years: New Methods for Quantitative, Longer-Term Policy Analysis (2003); "Managing the Risk of Uncertain Threshold Response: Comparison of Robust, Optimum, and Precautionary Approaches," Risk Analysis 27 (4) 2007; and "Can Scenarios Help Policy-makers Be Both Bold and Careful?" in Blindside: How to Anticipate Forcing Events and Wild Cards in Global Politics, edited by Francis Fukuyama (2007).)

  • Jürgen Scheffran

    (Jürgen Scheffran is Senior Research Scientist in the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament and International Security and Assistant Director of Education in the Center for Advanced BioEnergy Research at the University of Illinois where he has adjunct faculty positions at the Departments of Political Science and Atmospheric Sciences. From August 2009 he will be Professor of Climate Change and Security at Universität Hamburg. His recent books include Advanced Methods for Decision Making and Risk Management in Sustainability Science (co-edited with J. Kropp, 2007), and Agent Based Computational Modelling in Demography, Economic and Environmental Sciences (co-edited with F. Billari, T. Fent, and A. Prskawetz, 2006). He is also editor of: "Security and Complexity," Special Issue of the journal Complexity, 14 (1) 2008.)

  • Detlef F. Sprinz

    (Detlef F. Sprinz is Senior Scientist in the Research Domain "Transdisciplinary Concepts & Methods" of PIK-Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. His research and publications encompass long-term policy, inter/national institutions and the evaluation of their performance, international environmental policy, and modeling political decisions. He is the Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the European Environment Agency, Copenhagen, Denmark, and a member of the European Academy, Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany. His major publications include Models, Numbers, and Cases: Methods for Studying International Relations (with Yael Wolinsky-Nahmias, 2004), International Relations and Global Climate Change (with Urs Luterbacher, 2001), as well as articles in International Organization, International Studies Review, International Political Science Review, Journal of Conflict Resolution, and World Politics.)


This article provides a concise overview of methods for analyzing policy choices that have been used in the study of long-term environmental challenges. We open with an overview of the broad classes of methods used for long-term policy analysis, and subsequent sections will describe in depth three particular methods. They are: statistical models, such as employed in the debate on the environmental Kuznets curve, which infer past patterns from data and project them into the future; robust decision-making, a decision analytic framework that supports choices under deep uncertainty, and relates near-term policy interventions to different clusters of long-term environmental futures; and adaptive control and agent-based modeling, which provide an approach to simulation modeling that focuses on cooperation and conflict among multiple actors and their choice of strategies. While all three approaches can be used for various applications, this article focuses on the challenge of a potential transition to a low-carbon future to illustrate the strengths, weaknesses, and synergies among the respective methods. In the final section, we offer guidance for choosing among methods. (c) 2009 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert Lempert & Jürgen Scheffran & Detlef F. Sprinz, 2009. "Methods for Long-Term Environmental Policy Challenges," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 9(3), pages 106-133, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:glenvp:v:9:y:2009:i:3:p:106-133

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    Cited by:

    1. Balint, T. & Lamperti, F. & Mandel, A. & Napoletano, M. & Roventini, A. & Sapio, A., 2017. "Complexity and the Economics of Climate Change: A Survey and a Look Forward," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 138(C), pages 252-265.
    2. Bhave, Ajay Gajanan & Conway, Declan & Dessai, Suraje & Stainforth, David A., 2017. "Barriers and opportunities for robust decision making approaches to support climate change adaptation in the developing world," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 68318, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    3. Balint, T. & Lamperti, F. & Mandel, A. & Napoletano, M. & Roventini, A. & Sapio, A., 2017. "Complexity and the Economics of Climate Change: A Survey and a Look Forward," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 138(C), pages 252-265.
    4. Auke Hoekstra & Maarten Steinbuch & Geert Verbong, 2017. "Creating Agent-Based Energy Transition Management Models That Can Uncover Profitable Pathways to Climate Change Mitigation," Complexity, Hindawi, vol. 2017, pages 1-23, December.
    5. Juan Miguel Rodriguez-Lopez & Meike Schickhoff & Shubhankar Sengupta & Jürgen Scheffran, 2021. "Technological and social networks of a pastoralist artificial society: agent-based modeling of mobility patterns," Journal of Computational Social Science, Springer, vol. 4(2), pages 681-707, November.

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