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How Personal Judgment Influences Scenario Development: an Example for Future Rural Development in Europe

Marc J. Metzger, Centre for the Study of Environmental Change and Sustainability (CECS), University of Edinburgh ; Alterra Wageningen University and Research Centre
Mark D.A. Rounsevell, Centre for the study of Environmental Change and Sustainability (CECS), University of Edinburgh
Harm A.R.M. Van den Heiligenberg, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL); Province of Utrecht
Marta Pérez-Soba, Alterra Wageningen University and Research Centre
Paul Soto Hardiman, Grupo Alba


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Scenarios of alternative plausible futures have been used extensively to explore the potential effects of socioeconomic and environmental change. The ultimate objective of any explorative scenario exercise is to assess the variation in possible futures to provide insights into the range of potential outcomes. These results provide stakeholders with guidance for policy development, planning, and management. We explore how personal judgment can influence scenario development. Scenarios for the future of European rural regions are used to explore alternative outcomes under a public interventionist future and a market liberalization oriented future. A transparent qualitative framework is used to identify differences in outcomes based on personal judgment. Results show that, for both scenarios, there are plausible mechanisms that can lead to similar positive or negative outcomes. Choosing a single process per scenario, based on personal judgment and interpretation, can therefore greatly influence scenario outcomes and limit the range of uncertainty that is covered by the scenarios. The exercise shows the importance of making these judgments explicit in scenario development, especially when exploring broad consequences of alternative policy directions that may be based in political worldviews.

Key words

Common Agricultural Policy reform; explorative scenarios; personal judgment; rural development; uncertainty

Copyright © 2010 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087