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Eckley, Noelle. 2002. "Dependable Dynamism: Lessons for Designing Scientific Assessment Processes in Consensus Negotiations." Global Environmental Change 12(1): 15-23.


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Negotiations that involve the use and interpretation of scientific information and assessment are often particularly difficult, especially when the scientific input is uncertain or contested. Parties can exploit this uncertainty in order to stall progress, where they might prefer a very different policy outcome. In addition, scientific input often changes as new research is done and disseminated. In order to facilitate decision-making where science is involved, a number of international environmental agreements have established regimes, as well as assessment processes, that are designed to incorporate new information, review decisions, and modify judgments--that is, they are dynamic or adaptable. However, there is little systematic evaluation by policymakers or academic analysts of the type and qualities of such dynamism that might contribute to effective assessment and regulatory processes, or of whether this lesson is truly applicable across very different environmental issues. Examination of the recent protocol on persistent organic pollutants to the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP), in comparison to LRTAPs two previous protocols on sulfur emissions, offers a way to compare across different types of issues whether and how "adaptable" assessment processes influence consensus negotiations. The results of this comparison indicate that a type of adaptability likely to facilitate decision-making is "dependable dynamism"--the quality of assessment and decision-making processes that allows policymakers with ease to put off particular decisions for addressing in the future, with confidence that issues so put off will indeed be addressed later. The ability to modify such conclusions at a later time facilitates decision-making processes by offering a new dimension of compromise on both scientific assessment and policy decisions, and lowering the threshold of credibility necessary for decision-making.

Keywords: scientific assessment, dynamism, adaptability, negotiations, consensus, environmental assessment, Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP), persistent organic pollutants (POPs), sulfur, credibility


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