Can Reinforcement Learning support policy makers? A preliminary study with Integrated Assessment Models (Papers Track)

Theodore LM Wolf (Carbon Re); Nantas Nardelli (CarbonRe); John Shawe-Taylor (University College London); Maria Perez-Ortiz (University College London)

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Public Policy Societal Adaptation & Resilience


Governments around the world aspire to ground decision-making on evidence. Many of the foundations of policy making — e.g. sensing patterns that relate to societal needs, developing evidence-based programs, forecasting potential outcomes of policy changes, and monitoring effectiveness of policy programs — have the potential to benefit from the use of large-scale datasets or simulations together with intelligent algorithms. These could, if designed and deployed in a way that is well grounded on scientific evidence, enable a more comprehensive, faster, and rigorous approach to policy making. Integrated Assessment Models (IAM) is a broad umbrella covering scientific models that attempt to link main features of society and economy with the biosphere into one modelling framework. At present, these systems are probed by by policy makers and advisory groups in a hypothesis-driven manner. In this paper, we empirically demonstrate that modern Reinforcement Learning can be used to probe IAMs and explore the space of solutions in a more principled manner. While the implication of our results are modest since the environment is simplistic, we believe that this is a stepping stone towards more ambitious use cases, which could allow for effective exploration of policies and understanding of their consequences and limitations.