Adaptive Strategies for Abating Climate Change: An Example of Policy Analysis for Complex Adaptive Systems
Steven Bankes and Robert J. Lempert
Abstract: While there is a growing recognition that many problems of public policy involve complex adaptive systems, there has been a widespread reticence to apply the insights of research on such systems to policy analysis. In this paper we describe an approach based on exploratory modeling and adaptive strategies that can be used to formulate policy for systems that are so complex their detailed behavior cannot be predicted. We demonstrate this general approach using the problem of climate policy. The large uncertainties associated with the climate-change problem raise doubts about the reliability of policy prescriptions based on optimizing outcomes relative to best estimate models. Consequently, the typical quantitative studies of climate-change policy that attempt to predict the greenhouse-gas reduction plan that will have the optimum balance of long-term costs and benefits produces results that are less than convincing. We demonstrate how an approach based on exploratory modeling and adaptive strategies can be used to formulate climate policy even without assuming the predictive accuracy of a model for the climate system.