"Distributed Assessment Systems: An Emerging Paradigm of Research, Assessment and Decision-making for Environmental Change"
Discussion Paper 2000-06, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Author: David Cash, Former Associate, 1997-2000; Former Research Fellow, Environment and Natural Resources Program, 2000-2001
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Environment and Natural Resources; Research and Assessment Systems for Sustainability
Global environmental change is increasingly understood to have causes and consequences which span multiple levels, from the local to the global. Traditional centralized assessment efforts used to address global change, however, are generally insensitive to the multi-level nature of environmental problems. These efforts forego an opportunity to engage and inform regional and local researchers and decision-makers, increasingly important players in the science and politics of climate change, biodiversity loss, and other large-scale problems.
In response to this shortcoming, a new paradigm for environmental assessment and management has begun to emerge, paralleling and complementing the centralized committee-and-report approach: distributed research, assessment and management systems. These integrated networks of research, assessment, and management bridge numerous levels, and include sustained, long-term interactions between scientists, decision-makers, and stakeholders. This paper identifies such innovative systems in several issue-areas, outlines characteristics that contribute to their success, and argues that, given the increasing local sensitivity to global environmental problems, adoption of such systems are urgently needed.
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