Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A satisfactory model of complete ignorance

This one, I couldn't resist. In June 2006, the EU decided to commission a project under the heading: "What poor information can tell: Analysis of climate policies under large uncertainty about climate change."

The research investigated "the usefulness of imprecise probability concepts for assessing and processing the large and diverse uncertainty that needs to be considered in climate policy analysis. Imprecise probabilities are constituted by entire sets of probability measures."

I think I understand what they are talking about (just), but in case you have problems, they go on: "They provide a satisfactory model of complete ignorance, which is an important prerequisite for quantifying poor states of information such as encountered in climate change research. Classical probability theory faces severe difficulties in this field as the debate around quantifying uncertainties in the IPCC Assessment reports shows."

The project consisted of a theoretical part mainly conducted at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, USA and an applicational part to be executed at the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research, Germany (return host).

And you will be pleased to learn that the theoretical part consisted of an analysis of the decision theoretical as well as evidential basis of imprecise probabilities in the light of climate change. In the applied part, it investigated how the presence of ambiguity, i.e., imprecise information, can alter the results of model-based analyses of climate protection strategies and policy instruments.

It seems they had their work cut out. Fortunately, the work – completed in May last year – only cost us €245,365.00 – excluding VAT of course. Mind you, I could have provided "a satisfactory model of complete ignorance," absolutely free of change.