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Keywords:

  • Abrupt change;
  • climate change;
  • deep uncertainty;
  • info-gap;
  • robust decision making

This study compares two widely used approaches for robustness analysis of decision problems: the info-gap method originally developed by Ben-Haim and the robust decision making (RDM) approach originally developed by Lempert, Popper, and Bankes. The study uses each approach to evaluate alternative paths for climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions given the potential for nonlinear threshold responses in the climate system, significant uncertainty about such a threshold response and a variety of other key parameters, as well as the ability to learn about any threshold responses over time. Info-gap and RDM share many similarities. Both represent uncertainty as sets of multiple plausible futures, and both seek to identify robust strategies whose performance is insensitive to uncertainties. Yet they also exhibit important differences, as they arrange their analyses in different orders, treat losses and gains in different ways, and take different approaches to imprecise probabilistic information. The study finds that the two approaches reach similar but not identical policy recommendations and that their differing attributes raise important questions about their appropriate roles in decision support applications. The comparison not only improves understanding of these specific methods, it also suggests some broader insights into robustness approaches and a framework for comparing them.