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Environmental policymaking must confront two different kinds of uncertainty. I want to call attention to the role of a particular type of uncertainty, which I shall call "regulatory uncertainty" in the policy process. The conventional paradigm for thinking about the role of uncertainty in environmental policymaking emphasizes technical uncertainty. Technical uncertainty usually means such things as debates among scientists about whether a particular environmental problem is real. In the conventional view, delay in taking regulatory action is justified only until a sufficient "scientific consensus" about the problem is reached. Once a sufficient scientific consensus exists, it is thought to be important to "do something" as quickly as possible to deal with the problem. The presupposition that we should always act promptly after a technical consensus has been reached, which I take to be quite common in debates about global climate change in the popular press, is what I wish to explore and ultimately to challenge.
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