Many of the impact assessment methods in use are still relatively young and immature. Looking at the science of environmental impact evaluation in terms of Hegel's model of
successive phases of complication and integration, it appears that the complication phase has, so far, been dominant. The evidence for this is the ever-increasing number of methods and parameters being introduced as well as from the increased number of methods suggested for weighting of different impact types. However, the integration phase is now beginning to develop. This may be seen from an increasing demand for a simpler and a more comprehensive language.
When describing impact evaluation there is a risk of making it into 'a science of acronyms'. It seems that a common way of addressing a complex problem like impact evaluation is to agree about a procedure instead of an analysis. Procedures may be understood by many. Understanding an impact analysis is much more a qualified expert task. The preference for agreements about procedures may be seen in the ISO 14000 project, which is entirely about environmental management. The LCA standards are purely procedural.
It must be remembered that having a good procedure is only helpful up to a certain level. The quality assurance described in the ISO 14000 series is an assurance only of the procedures, not of the result. The basic problems of finding relevant data for interventions, identifying and modeling cause-effect chains and describing human attitudes to impacts still have to be solved.
Normally the impact assessment is made from 'left to right', that is starting with interventions you know and trying to identify and assess their consequences. Most of the interventions that have been registered have been registered because they 'may' have some impacts on the environment. But there is an over-representation of measurements on interventions that have little actual impact on the environment, as they are part of monitoring programs aimed at preventing impacts. It is therefore also useful to go from 'right to left', that is to check all significant environmental issues and whether they may be influenced by the activity evaluated.
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