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Decision-making and environmental risks

This is an interdisciplinary course on the theories and practices of environmental risk management decision-making.

It covers aspects of philosophy (ethics and decision theory), political science (decisions and policy development by organizations) and the natural sciences (science and risk management of climate change, air pollution, hazardous chemicals, and water management).

The course is developed with the aim to attract students with different backgrounds to further promote interdisciplinary interactions and learning.

Environmental risk management decision-making, illustration
Illustration by Karin Bergman
  • Course structure

    In the first part of the course, environmental ethics is introduced, including an overview of how different values can be identified and incorporated into decision making on environmental risks. For example, how do we incorporate aspects of sustainability and the needs of future generations in today´s decisions?


    The second part turns to decision theory and philosophy of science. It asks how values and facts should be combined in order to make rational decisions, and examines the role of science in providing objective risk assessments. This part also discusses how lack of information and other types of uncertainties can be managed.

    This then follows by the perspective from political science and decision-making and policy development by organizations. Covering aspects like “group-thinking” and risk-benefit assessments.

    Teaching format

    The theoretical parts are complemented by lectures relating to the practices of science and risk management within four different environmental areas: climate change, air pollution and health, hazardous chemicals, and water management. For each environmental area a general background to the problem is provided and how science is generated to inform decisions. The strengths and weaknesses of different scientific methods and the nature and management of remaining uncertainties are discussed. This part also exemplifies actual decision processes and thereby relate the theories to actual practices.


    The course is examined by a project work, in which the student identifies a relevant decision-maker and perform a semi-structured interview with that person. The purpose of this is to investigate how the decision theories are applied in practice and reflect on if and how actual decision-processes can be improved. The interviews are presented and discussed with the teachers and other students.


    Cheating and plagiarism

    Cheating of every kind is wholly unacceptable and Stockholm University takes this matter extremely seriously.

    By cheating is meant, for example, that students cooperate in an unauthorized way, use unauthorized resources or otherwise try to cheat in the examination. To use another person’s expressions or ideas without stating the source is plagiarism. To translate and/or change some words in someone else’s text and present it as your own is also a form of plagiarism. Plagiarism is considered cheating and if discovered in an exam or paper, the exam or paper will be failed immediately and disciplinary measures may be taken.

    Any student who is caught cheating or disrupting academic activities may be suspended from lectures and exams for a period of up to six months. The Vice Chancellor or the Disciplinary Council decide whether the student is to be subject to any disciplinary measures.

    Read more about the rules and regulations here:
    Guidelines for Disciplinary Matters at Stockholm University
    Your rights and responsibilities as a student
    Regulations for written seated examination


    Christina Rudén,

    Department of Environmental Science, unit of Exposure & Effects

  • Schedule

    The schedule will be available no later than one month before the start of the course. We do not recommend print-outs as changes can occur. At the start of the course, your department will advise where you can find your schedule during the course.
  • Contact

    Study counsellors

    Questions about admission, registration, schedule etc.

    Course coordinator

    Christina Rudén,

    Department of Environmental Science, unit of Exposure & Effects