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Strategic Appraisal of Environmental Risks: A Contrast Between the United Kingdom's Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change and its Committee on Radioactive Waste Management


Address correspondence to Alec Morton, London School of Economics and Political Science. Houghton Street, London WC2A2AE, UK; tel: +44 (0) 207 955 6537;


In this article, we compare two high-profile strategic policy reviews undertaken for the U.K. government on environmental risks: radioactive waste management and climate change. These reviews took very different forms, both in terms of analytic approach and deliberation strategy. The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change was largely an exercise in expert modeling, building, within a cost-benefit framework, an argument for immediate reductions in carbon emissions. The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management, on the other hand, followed a much more explicitly deliberative and participative process, using multicriteria decision analysis to bring together scientific evidence and stakeholder and public values. In this article, we ask why the two reviews were different, and whether the differences are justified. We conclude that the differences were mainly due to political context, rather than the underpinning science, and as a consequence that, while in our view “fit for purpose,” they would both have been stronger had they been less different. Stern's grappling with ethical issues could have been strengthened by a greater degree of public and stakeholder engagement, and the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management's handling of issues of uncertainty could have been strengthened by the explicitly probabilistic framework of Stern.