Corridors of clarity: Four principles to overcome uncertainty paralysis in the anthropocene

Stephen Polasky, Anne Sophie Crépin*, Reinette Oonsie Biggs, Stephen R. Carpenter, Carl Folke, Garry Peterson, Marten Scheffer, Scott Barrett, Gretchen Daily, Paul Ehrlich, Richard B. Howarth, Terry Hughes, Simon A. Levin, Jason F. Shogren, Max Troell, Brian Walker, Anastasios Xepapadeas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Global environmental change challenges humanity because of its broad scale, long-lasting, and potentially irreversible consequences. Key to an effective response is to use an appropriate scientific lens to peer through the mist of uncertainty that threatens timely and appropriate decisions surrounding these complex issues. Identifying such corridors of clarity could help understanding critical phenomena or causal pathways sufficiently well to justify taking policy action. To this end, we suggest four principles: Follow the strongest and most direct path between policy decisions on outcomes, focus on finding sufficient evidence for policy purpose, prioritize no-regrets policies by avoiding options with controversial, uncertain, or immeasurable benefits, aim for getting the big picture roughly right rather than focusing on details.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1139-1144
Number of pages6
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • Global environmental change
  • Science-policy interface
  • Sufficient evidence
  • Uncertainty


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