The question of how to deal with uncertainty in environmental decision-making is cur-rently attracting considerable attention on the part of scientists as well as of politicians and those involved in government administration. The existence of uncertainty becomes particularly apparent in the field of environmental policy because environmental prob-lems are regarded as highly complex and long-term and because far-reaching changes have to be taken into account; moreover, the knowledge available to practitioners and policy makers alike is often fragmentary and not systemised. One key issue arising from this is the challenge to develop scientific decision support methods that are capable of dealing with uncertainty in a systematic and differentiated way, integrating scientific and practical knowledge. This paper introduces a conceptual framework for perceiving and describing uncertainty in environmental decision-making. It is argued that perceiv-ing and describing uncertainty is an important prerequisite for deciding and acting under uncertainty. The conceptual framework consists of a general definition of uncertainty along with five complementary perspectives on the phenomenon, each highlighting one specific aspect of it. By using the conceptual framework, decision-makers are able to re-flect on their knowledge base with regard to its completeness and reliability and to gain a broad picture of uncertainty from various standpoints. The theoretical ideas presented here are based on two empirical studies looking at how uncertainty is dealt with in the implementation process of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). The rather ab-stract differentiations are illustrated by a number of examples in the form of interview statements and excerpts from the WFD and the WFD guidance documents Impress, Wateco und Proclan.
uncertainty probability lack of knowledge pure ignorance environ-mental decision-making EU Water Framework Directive (WFD)