Advanced Environmental Systems Analysis [2nd mod]

The course offers a systematic overview of policy analysis and decision-making under global change. The emphasis will be on concepts and tools for modeling human decisions in environmental systems subject to demographic, land-use, energy, and climate change (see course introduction). The course develops knowledge and skills for modeling these changes across different spatial and temporal scales, quantifying their impacts at the local scale, assessing the variety of uncertainties associated to future projections, and developing tools to assist decision makers. Real world examples and numerical applications will be developed.

Detailed topics covered include:

  1. Introduction to the course
  2. Scenario-based analysis: the traditional top-down approach, from global scenarios to the local scale; demographic projections; climate models and IPCC assessment reports (emission scenarios vs representative concentration pathways); energy models (e.g., WITCH); land-use models (e.g., AQUACROP); downscaling techniques.
  3. Scenario-neutral analysis: the alternative bottom-up approach, from local vulnerabilities to global scenarios; sensitivity analysis and synthetic generation of external drivers; stress test and failure boundary.
  4. Uncertainty analysis and robust decisions: decisions under risk vs decisions under uncertainty; robustness criteria (e.g., Wald, Hurwicz, Savage, Laplace); optimal sequencing; robustness, flexibility, and adaptive decisions.


  • Nellin, J.D. (2011). Climate Change and Climate Modeling. Cambridge University Press.
  • Ray, P. and C. Brown (2015). Confronting Climate Uncertainty in Water Resources Planning and Project Design. The Decision Tree Framework. World Bank Group.
  • Peterson, M. (2017). An introduction to decision theory. Cambridge University Press (second edition).
  • Additional material (slides, papers) will be provided throughout the course.

Exam: the final exam comprises a written part on the lectures’ topics, along with a computer-based project.

Tentative calendar for the 2017-2018 academic year.