Advanced Environmental Systems Analysis – mod. 2

Course Objectives

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. 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. The course is aimed at graduate students preparing to work in the environmental engineering field.

Course Program

  • Introduction to the course
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).