12 Dez 2017

Megaprojects, Process, Risk and our Climate Challenge by Darnel Harris

Building a climate resilient world requires correctly managing the climate mitigation projects in which we choose to invest. While a wider group of stakeholders are increasingly demanding (and receiving) a seat at the table due to past failures, decisions will not improve unless risks are evaluated appropriately and decisions are science based. However, there is a new generation of tools which can support this need to communicate technical information clearly.

“We have documented in this book that: *cost overruns of 50% to 100 % in real terms are común in mega projects; overruns of above 100 per cent are not uncommon; *Demand forecasts that are wrong by 20 per cent to 70 per cent compared with actual developments are common; *the extent and magnitude of actual environmental impacts of projects are often very different from forecast impacts. Post-auditing is neglected;”

-Bent Flyvberg. Megaprojects and Risk. An Anatomy of Ambition

For the last two decades, the global community has held conference of the parties discussions, during which countries and companies pledge billions of dollars toward projects and programs to help address climate change. While individual actions are important to focus on in terms of building support, we know that realizing a zero carbon, resilient, prosperous, and fair future will require billions of dollars and urgent action. In sum, climate change must be mostly addressed through a series of megaprojects. This should concern us.

“Communicative and deliberative approaches work well as ideas and evaluative yardsticks for decision making, but they are quite defenseless in the face of power.”

-Bent Flyvberg. Megaprojects and Risk. An Anatomy of Ambition

Professor Bent Flyvbjerg notes that megaprojects are defined as those of a significant cost ($1 Billion +) which attract a high level of public attention or political interest, because of substantial, direct or indirect impact on the community. As our climate change solutions necessitate several megaprojects being successfully run and completed over a relatively short time frame, megaproject governance matters. Since a significant improvement in collective human and environmental life rests on the outcome, it is vital that our investments reach the results they were intended to reach.

Megaprojects have been historically over budget, a trend which continues today – the Berlin Brandenburg airport and the 2016 Rio Olympics, being two of many examples. However, there are signs that misrepresentation in project benefits and outcomes are no longer being tolerated by the public and investors; laws and best practices which rationally evaluate risk and eliminate strategic misrepresentations are beginning to be used widely. Public debate, policies and practices are being reformed with the goal of ensuring that money, effort and time are not wasted. Now while the public, investors and decision makers do not wish to continue to see resources wasted and to receive more unfulfilled promises, they still need the knowledge to make the right decisions. It is at this point when the need for access to simplified, visualized modeling arises, which is capable of clearly communicating the impact of complex variables and outcomes – both positive and negative.

There are powerful, new, computer generated tools supporting these changes; which allow us to more accurately visualize and model an entire range of outcomes and designs. If we integrate these programs and models into our private and public decision making processes, megaproject success should increase, because more people will be armed with the ability to appropriately weigh risks and benefits without technical or specialized knowledge.

– Darnel Harris