An evaluation of multi-criteria methods in integrated assessment of climate policy

Those who conduct integrated assessments (IAs) are aware of the need to explicitly consider multiple criteria and uncertainties when evaluating policies for preventing global warming. MCDM methods are potentially useful for understanding tradeoffs and evaluating risks associated with climate policy alternatives. A difficulty facing potential MCDM users is the wide range of different techniques that have been proposed, each with distinct advantages. Methods differ in terms of validity, ease of use, and appropriateness to the problem. Alternative methods also can yield strikingly different rankings of alternatives. A workshop was held in which climate change experts and policy makers evaluated the usefulness of MCDM for IA. Participants applied several methods in the context of a hypothetical greenhouse gas policy decision. Methods compared include value and utility functions, goal programming, ELECTRE, fuzzy sets, stochastic dominance, min max regret, and several weight selection methods. Ranges, rather than point estimates, were provided for some questions to incorporate imprecision regarding weights. Additionally, several visualization methods for both deterministic and uncertain cases were used and evaluated. Analysis of method results and participant feedback through questionnaires and discussion provide the basis for conclusions regarding the use of MCDM methods for climate change policy and IA analyses. Hypotheses are examined concerning predictive and convergent validity of methods, existence of splitting bias among experts, perceived ability of methods to aid decision-making, and whether expressing imprecision can change ranking results. Because participants gained from viewing a problem from several perspectives and results from different methods often significantly differed, it appears worthwhile to apply several MCDM methods to increase user confidence and insight. The participants themselves recommended such multimethod approaches for policymaking. Yet they preferred the freedom of unaided decision-making most of all, challenging the MCDM community to create transparent methods that permit maximum user control.

An evaluation of multi-criteria methods in integrated assessment of climate policy

Publication Date: 
Saturday, September 1, 2001
Authors: 
Michelle L. Bell
Benjamin F. Hobbs
Emily M. Elliott
Hugh Ellis
Zachary Robinson
Journal: 
Journal of Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis 10(5), p. 229-256