WMO Conference 2006

July 17-21, 2006
WMO Conference: Living with Climate Variability and Change
Espoo, Finland

The CRED delegation led the Working Group on Decision Making (co-chaired by Nigel Harvey and Elke Weber) at the Living with Climate Variability and Change conference in Espoo, Finland, July 17-21, 2006.

This working group was charged with providing guidance about decision processes to those engaged in making decisions that incorporate uncertain climate information, as well as to those who manage research, programs, or projects to which decisions processes are pertinent.

The conference was co-sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), and the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI). They were joined by External Advisory Board member Renate Schubert.

Summary of Outcomes:

  • Elke Weber called on policy makers to consider the multiple decision models of stakeholders who integrate climate change information.
  • Delegates provided policy input from CRED research on participatory processes, social goals and learning and information processing.
  • View slides from Elke Weber’s talk summarizing decision making aspects of climate change information here.

Policy Recommendations:

  • Based on the observation that experiential and analytic processing systems compete and that personal experience and vivid descriptions are often favored over statistical information, we suggest the following research and policy implications:
  • Communications designed to create, recall and highlight relevant personal experience and to elicit affective responses can lead to more public attention to, processing of, and engagement with forecasts of climate variability and climate change. Vicarious experiential information in the form of scenarios, narratives, and analogies can help the decision makers imagine the potential consequences of climate variability and change, amplify or attenuate risk perceptions, and influence both individual behavioral intentions and public policy preferences.
  • Likewise, the translation of statistical information into concrete experience with simulated forecasts, decision making and its outcomes can greatly facilitate an intuitive understanding of both probabilities and the consequences of incremental change and extreme events, and motivate contingency planning.
  • Yet, while the engagement of experience-based, affective decision making can make risk communications more salient and motivate behavior, experiential processing is also subject to its own biases, limitations and distortions, such as emotional exhaustion and resulting inaction due to a finite pool of worry and inadequately simple preventive action, since worry or concern is often alleviated by a single preventive or evasive action.
  • One way to facilitate this interaction is through group and participatory decision making. Group processes allow individuals with a range of knowledge, skills and personal experience to share diverse information and perspectives and work together on a problem.
  • Communications to groups should also try to translate statistical information into formats readily understood in the language, personal and cultural experience of group members. In a somewhat iterative or cyclical process, the shared concrete information can then be re- abstracted to an analytic level that leads to action that incorporates both sources of information.