Uncertainty can be described as a state of knowledge—or lack thereof—in which the probability of any adverse effect or the effects themselves cannot be reliably assessed. Because of the complex and ambiguous nature of humanity's interaction with the environment, uncertainty is inherent in any analysis of this relationship. The notion of uncertainty is often contrary to the positivist perspective on science, which observes cause-and-effect relationships between phenomena with the aim of resolving, avoiding, or negating adverse effects of environmental problems. With this in mind, it is often the linear relationship in the absence of uncertainty that policymakers adhere to when deciding on appropriate courses of action.

It is increasingly recognized, however, that the cause-and-effect relationship in the absence of uncertainty is overly reductionist. This applies to ...

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