Responsibility Under Uncertainty: Which Climate Decisions Matter Most?
Journal article, 2023

We propose a new method for estimating how much decisions under monadic uncertainty matter. The method is generic and suitable for measuring responsibility in finite horizon sequential decision processes. It fulfills “fairness” requirements and three natural conditions for responsibility measures: agency, avoidance and causal relevance. We apply the method to study how much decisions matter in a stylized greenhouse gas emissions process in which a decision maker repeatedly faces two options: start a “green” transition to a decarbonized society or further delay such a transition. We account for the fact that climate decisions are rarely implemented with certainty and that their consequences on the climate and on the global economy are uncertain. We discover that a “moral” approach towards decision making — doing the right thing even though the probability of success becomes increasingly small — is rational over a wide range of uncertainties.


GHG emissions processes

Climate policy

Verified decision making

Responsibility measures


Nicola Botta

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

Chalmers, Computer Science and Engineering (Chalmers), Functional Programming

Nuria Brede

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

University of Potsdam

Michel Crucifix

Universite catholique de Louvain

Cezar Ionescu

Deggendorf Institute of Technology

Patrik Jansson

Chalmers, Computer Science and Engineering (Chalmers), Functional Programming

Zheng Li


Northeastern University

Marina Martínez

Universite catholique de Louvain

Tim Richter

University of Potsdam

Environmental Modeling and Assessment

1420-2026 (ISSN) 1573-2967 (eISSN)

Vol. 28 3 337-365

Subject Categories


Medical Ethics

Other Environmental Engineering



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