On the Application of Expert Systems in Environmental Performance Assessment

James K. Lein



Several methodologies have been developed to assess the nature and form of human impact on the environment. Each technique attempts to address the uncertainties surrounding the functional relationships that govern environmental systems and the form, diffusion, and persistence of human impact. As technological advances increase society's ability to cause environmental change, the need to understand the long-term implications of human actions beyond the planning horizons of present social and political systems becomes more urgent. The emerging methodology of environmental performance assessment holds promise in this regard. However, environmental performance assessment is hampered by the lack of a comprehensive environmental framework and a failure adequately to integrate aftermath effects into overall descriptions of risk. In this article, the concept of environmental performance assessment is reviewed, and an approach is introduced that uses an expert system to integrate the facts and relations defining a coupled human-environmental system so as to produce an "intelligent" event tree capable of expressing long-term environmental risk.

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