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Connecting Environmental Futures with Environmental Decision-making: a Review
  • David Gibbs,
  • Joe Flotemersch
David Gibbs
World Resources Institute

Corresponding Author:dagibbs22@gmail.com

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Joe Flotemersch
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
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Environmental decision- and policy-making must contend with uncertainty about the future that can hinder proactive environmental decisions, forcing environmental managers into reactive postures. To help prevent this, a variety of methods exist for exploring potential environmental futures and associated uncertainties. Producing environmental futures benefit those involved by supporting a systems-level understanding and expanding thinking beyond “business as usual”. We review environmental and non-environmental programs that use indicators to inform environmental futures for decision- and policy-making. Review objectives are to: 1) identify and discuss key environmental futures program attributes, and 2) propose program attributes that support their successful uptake in decision processes. Attributes discussed include purpose and audience, methods, addressing uncertainty and assumptions, relationship to indicator programs, how program values and biases are addressed, the role of goals, and how success is measured and defined. We conclude with recommendations for environmental futures programs that can be successfully integrated into environmental decisions. These include: combining multiple environmental futures methods to provide complementary insights or highlight inconsistencies in assumptions, including a schematic of assumptions and drivers, and defining success criteria, whenever possible. These can help increase the acceptance of environmental futures products in decision-making and increase their short-term and long-term contributions.