Exploring acceptable levels of uncertainty within the joint

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Exploring acceptable levels of
uncertainty within the joint
decision making space
Prof. Dominic Kniveton
University of Sussex
The humanitarian community and
the 2011 Horn of Africa crisis
• Humanitarian response was a response
to a emergency that was already
underway;
• despite being warned of a high possibility
that it might occur before the event
• Desire to develop a more anticipatory
approach using science to both predict
and prepare for future disasters
Humanitarian community
Comprises
• providers, such as donor
governments, foundations and
individual givers;
• delivering agencies including
the Red Cross and Red
Crescent Movement, NGOs,
and UN Agencies;
• those affected by crises, not
only as victims but also as
implementers of their own
response, including national
governments, local NGOs and
communities themselves
Donors
Delivering agencies
National governments
Local communities
Climate science community
Comprises
• providers, such as donor
governments, foundations and
individual givers;
• delivering agencies including
research institutions and
universities
• those using science and
developing their own climate
information, including national
governments, local NGOs and
communities themselves
Donors
Delivering agencies
National governments
Local communities
A dangerous delay
• Decision-maker ill ease at acting upon forecasts
that are inherently uncertain.
– in acting on uncertain forecasts, fear of the impact on
finances and reputation if the forecasts fail to be
accurate;
– of being seen as too interventionist, and so
undermining community’s own coping capacity if they
become involved before crises are fully in flow;
– and of risking donor fatigue if the number of forecasts
requiring action increases.
Being taken seriously
• factors affecting the take-up of early warning information
– the ownership of the information with donor agencies cited as being
sceptical of early warning information provided by some national
governments.
– how the early warning information is interpreted e.g. how to interpret
probabilities.
• donor bureaucracies and the use of early warning information;
– rigidity of the humanitarian system has also been highlighted as an
impediment to the use of early warning information. For example the
misalignment of the timeline of UN appeals with the seasons in the horn
of Africa has been cited as contributing to the underestimation of the
number of people needing aid in the 2011 crisis
– how to design actions based on probabilities
• political factors influencing decision making is acted upon where
populations rely on national and international assistance
Margaret Buchanan-Smith 2000. Role of early warning systems in decision making
process. ODI
Climate scientists
Households and communities
Reputation based around
publications from mainly within the
scientific community
Perceived and actual
ability to act
Access to funding for
research
Subjective norms
Institutional and individual
research agendas
within climate science
Shared decision
space
Social discourse
on risk
Reputation, credibility and access
to funders
Profile to stakeholders
Reputation (and therefore access) to
nation states
International humanitarian system
Complex Adaptive Systems
Systems involving ‘nested
hierarchies, a multiplicity of
cross-scale interactions and
feedback loops between
different hierarchical levels
characterised by a high degree
of complexity and non-linear
behaviour that predictive
equilibrium models fail to
calculate’ (Rammel et al 2007)
UN Agencies
Weather and
Climate Scientists
Mobile Phones
Internet
Radio
Newspapers
Faith Networks
Markets
Chiefs’ Meetings
Key
Actors
Information flows
Feedback loops
Government
and Regional
and
International
Organisations
GOs
(I)NGOs, UN
Agencies and
Red
Cross/Crescent
Community
Mobile Phones
Internet
Radio
Newspapers
Faith Networks
Markets
Chiefs’ Meetings
Adaptive co-management
Promoting collaboration between the
epistemic communities through pluralism
and linkages across multiple actors,
communication and negotiation between
the different communities; by promoting
transactive decision making whereby
policy/practice decisions are regarded as
flexible and adaptive rather than definitive
solutions; and rather than focusing on
certainties making an explicit recognition
of uncertainties and an emphasis on
social learning and the co-evolution of
knowledge (Plummer and Armitage 2007).
UN Agencies
Weather and
Climate Scientists
Mobile Phones
Internet
Radio
Newspapers
Faith Networks
Markets
Chiefs’ Meetings
Key
Actors
Information flows
Feedback loops
Government
and Regional
and
International
Organisations
GOs
(I)NGOs, UN
Agencies and
Red
Cross/Crescent
Community
Mobile Phones
Internet
Radio
Newspapers
Faith Networks
Markets
Chiefs’ Meetings
An anticipatory approach
Uncertainty
Probabilities
A general, overarching term
referring to ambiguities,
indeterminateness, or lack of
exactness in forecasts Hirschberg
and Abrams (2011)
Risk
The combination of the
probability of an event and its
negative consequences.
(UNISDR)
Uncertainty and climate science
• generates a rationale for
research
• a fundamental
characteristic of
predictions of the state of
the atmosphere over time.
– while the exact state of the
atmosphere is impossible
to forecast precisely, some
general patterns of the
atmosphere have some
predictability (in terms of
probabilities of occurrence)
Uncertainty and probability
• Ensemble runs
• Multi-model
runs
• Sample of the
total probability
distribution
Greater Horn of Africa
Consensus Climate Outlook
for the September to
December 2010
100
90
80
Start of wet
season
Probability of occurrence
70
60
below average
average
above average
50
40
30
20
10
0
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
Weeks before end of wet season
18
20
22
24
26
70
60
Accuracy (%)
50
40
50% chance of below average rainfall
40% chance of below average rainfall
30% chance of below average rainfall
30
20
10
0
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
Months before rains
7
8
9
10
Contributing factors
Food Availability,
Access, Utilization,
Stability
Human Water
Requirement from
Improved Source
Hazards &
Vulnerability
Integrated Food Security Phase Classification's (IPC) Acute Food Insecurity Reference Table for Household Groups
Concluding thoughts
• The science community needs to engage with the humanitarian
system and its demand for information on risk.
• During this process, questions and solutions will arise as to what
information is needed on the climate, what is producible and how it
can be used.
• Possible starting positions for this dialogue include for climate
science illustrating the variability and extent of uncertainty over time
and space, associated with different climate forecasts and products.
• While for the humanitarian system this could include illustrating how
an anticipatory risk management based humanitarian system will
work in practice. For example exploring how the uncertainty in
probabilistic climate information propagates through such decision
support tools as predictive livelihood analysis (Levine et al 2011)
and thus how it may lead to flexible and adaptive policies and
actions.
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