Ultimately, any choice involves weighing multiple criteria. Decision makers will differ in their judgments about which criteria are most important and in their methods for dealing with uncertainties. Even when it is possible to characterize how different response actions rank under the different criteria, this information may not necessarily point to a preferred action or strategy. Rather, this information provides a basis on which decision makers can make reasoned judgments and engage in informed debates. The decision sciences offer a variety of methods for helping decision makers evaluate and make trade-offs among options,24 but even these methods do not obviate the need for deliberation and judgment.
In the committee’s judgment, iterative risk management—which emphasizes taking action now, but in doing so, being ready to learn from experience and adjust these efforts later on—offers the most useful approach for guiding America’s climate choices. The successful application of this approach requires broad-based continuous learning by the scientific community together with decision makers in the government, the private sector, and the general public.