Public Policy and Decision Science
This page is about the intersection of policy-making and machine learning. For an overview of policy-making and decision science, please see the Wikipedia page on this topic.
When creating policies, decision-makers must often negotiate fundamental uncertainties in the underlying data and construct mathematical models to help them assess or trade off between different policy alternatives (ex-ante policy analysis). ML can help alleviate some of this uncertainty by extracting information from satellite imagery, sensors, social media posts, policy documents, and other source and provide new techniques for working with models commonly used by decision-makers (e.g. integrated assessment models, multi-objective optimization, etc.). When deciding between different policy options, it is necessary to understand how effectively each strategy will reduce emissions, as well as how society may be affected. ML can also help retroactively, by analyzing the text of existing policies and by performing causal inference on historical data (ex-post policy analysis).
Machine Learning Application Areas
- Resources for Effective Climate Decisions. (Ch. 4) Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change (2010): A chapter from a report published after a series of five coordinated activities convened by the National Research Council in response to a request from Congress. Available here.
- Climate Change and Society: Approaches and Responses. (2011): a chapter from the Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society. Available here.
- Assessment and Decision-making for Climate Change: An Overview of Four Approaches (2012): The second report of the West Kootenay Climate Vulnerability and Resilience Project. Available here.
- Social Capital, Collective Action, and Adaptation to Climate Change (2003): a review of the emerging perspectives of collective action and social capital. Available here.
- Social, Economic, and Ethical Concepts and Methods. (Ch. 3). (2014) : a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) regarding the social and economic aspects of climate change. Available here.
- From Science to Policy: Developing Responses to Climate Change. (Ch. 12). Climate Change and Human Health - Risks and Responses. (1996): a report by the World Health Organization on the risks to human health of developing responses to climate change. Available here.
- Decision making under uncertainty in climate change mitigation: introducing multiple actor motivations, agency and influence (2018): an article that presents an analysis that includes the perspectives and agency of multiple actors in climate change mitigation, through a case study of the UK construction sector. Available here.
- Decision Making and Climate Change Uncertainty: Setting the Foundations for Informed and Consistent Strategic Decisions. (2019): an accessible explanation of how public officials, especially in low income countries, can address today's short- term pressing needs while preparing for tomorrow's climate-related impacts, written by the Climate Change Advisor of the Government of Quito, Chile. Available here.
- Climate Change Policies (2016): A report by the European Environmental Agency on defining successful, impactful policies for climate change. Available here.
Markets and Pricing
- Market Strategies for Climate Change (2004): examines current market responses, focusing on the drivers (threats and opportunities) and the actions being taken by companies to address climate change. Available here.
- The Critical Role of Markets in Climate Change Adaptation (2018): this paper summarizes and synthesizes the role of markets in facilitating climate change adaptation. It explains how market signals encourage adaptation through land markets. Available here.
- Market-based strategies. (2019): An overview prepared by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions about market-based approaches, like a carbon tax or cap-and-trade program, that can help reduce emissions at the lowest possible cost. Available here.
Online Courses and Course Materials
Educational resources for policy analysis
- Theory and Practice in Policy Analysis: Including Applications in Science and Technology (Morgan, 2017): A rich resource for teaching classes on policy analysis with a focus on science and technology. Available here.
- Policy Analysis: Concepts and Practice (Weimer & Vining, 2017): Essential primer on policy analysis. Available here.
- Data for Policy: A global forum for interdisciplinary and cross-sector discussions around the impact and potentials of the digital revolution in the government sector (international conference, UK-based).
- International Association for Energy Economics (IAEE) Conferences: Main venue for academic and professional energy analyst, with a strong policy focus (international and regional).
- Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) Conferences: Conferences and events dedicated to improving public policy and management (international and regional).
Major societies and organizations
- International Association for Energy Economics (IAEE): A major society for academic and professional energy analyst, with a strong policy focus.
- Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM): Society dedicated to improving public policy and management by fostering excellence in research, analysis, and education.
Libraries and Tools
Given the importance of representing the impacts of decision-making and market-based strategies, interactive simulation tools and packages for multi-objective optimization are particularly useful in this application. Some of these are listed below:
- Carbon market simulation tool: demystifies how to develop and implement a carbon portfolio management strategy, and demonstrates that results are driven by design.
- Python packages for multi-objective optimization:
- Evolutionary Multi-Objective Optimization (EMOO)
- Platypus - Multi-objective Optimization in Python: Platypus is a framework for evolutionary computing in Python with a focus on multiobjective evolutionary algorithms (MOEAs), providing optimization algorithms and analysis tools for multiobjective optimization.
- Matlab package for multi-objective optimization: Matlab package for multi-objective optimization, accompanied by tutorial videos and explanations.
There are several sources of data at various global, regional, and national levels, all of which are useful for modeling the impact of policies.
Climate policy databases
- Policies database of the International Energy Agency (IEA): one of the largest international climate and energy policy databases, integrating the IEA/IRENA Renewable Energy Policies and Measures Database, the IEA Energy Efficiency Database, the Addressing Climate Change database, and the Building Energy Efficiency Policies (BEEP) database.
- Climate Policy Database of the New Climate Institute: covering policies from top 30 emitting countries which cover 82% of global GHG emission.
- Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE): US subnational climate policy database.
- Environmental Treaty Status Data Set, 2012 Release (1940–2012): provides information on the status of country participation in international environmental agreements.
Climate change impacts and adaptation
- Vulnerability to Climate Change Dataset: quantifies the vulnerability of 233 countries to three major effects of climate change (weather-related disasters, sea-level rise, and reduced agricultural productivity).
Carbon price data
- CO2 “price” in European ETS: Data about the European Union Emissions Trading System (ETS), coming mainly from the EU Transaction Log.
Data by or relevant to international organizations
- World Bank ClimateSmart data portal: focuses on the needs of practitioners working in developing countries on low-emission development and climate resilient projects.
- IPCC Socio-Economic Baseline Data, v1 (1980, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 2025): dataset for the evaluation of climate change impact curated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
- IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) Observed Climate Change Impacts, v1 (1970–2004): database with observed responses to climate change for multidisciplinary studies curated by the IPCC.
- Council, National Research (2010-07-21). Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change. ISBN 978-0-309-14594-7.
- Dryzek, John S.; Norgaard, Richard B.; Schlosberg, David (2011-08-18). "Climate Change and Society: Approaches and Responses". Oxford Handbooks Online. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199566600.003.0001.
- Social Capital, Collective Action, and Adaptation to Climate Change, VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften
- Social, Economic, and Ethical Concepts and Methods, Cambridge University Press
- The Politics of Climate Science, Springer Netherlands
- Roelich, Katy; Giesekam, Jannik (2018-06-04). "Decision making under uncertainty in climate change mitigation: introducing multiple actor motivations, agency and influence". Climate Policy. 19 (2): 175–188. doi:10.1080/14693062.2018.1479238. ISSN 1469-3062.
- Adapting Infrastructure to Climate Change. Routledge. Retrieved 2020-08-28.
- Del Río, Pablo. "Climate Change Policies and New Technologies". Climate Change Policies. doi:10.4337/9781781000885.00016.
- Kolk, Ans; Pinkse, Jonatan (2004-06-01). "Market Strategies for Climate Change". European Management Journal. 22 (3): 304–314. doi:10.1016/j.emj.2004.04.011. ISSN 0263-2373.
- Anderson, Sarah; Anderson, Terry; Hill, Alice; Kahn, Matthew; Kunreuther, Howard; Libecap, Gary; Mantripragada, Hari; Mérel, Pierre; Plantinga, Andrew; Smith, V. Kerry (2018-05). "The Critical Role of Markets in Climate Change Adaptation" (PDF). Cambridge, MA: w24645. doi:10.3386/w24645. Cite journal requires
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- "Market-Based Strategies". Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. 2020-06-13.
- Morgan, Granger (2017). Theory and Practice in Policy Analysis: Including Applications in Science and Technology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781316882665. ISBN 978-1-316-88266-5.
- Weimer DL, Vining AR. Policy analysis: Concepts and practice. Taylor & Francis; 2017 Mar 31.