climate change

Reframing the climate debate – caution

Browsing the websites and literature of those who disagree with anthropomorphic climate change, I am struck by the number of times people suggest that because the science is inconclusive, we should do nothing. Because adapting to climate change will be so expensive, we should err on the side of caution and save ourselves the spend. Leaving aside the discussion over whether the science is inconclusive or not, this is an odd response.

Firstly, if you knew that there was a 90% chance of rain tomorrow, you’d think twice before planning a picnic. The IPCC believes there is a 90% chance that the global warming experienced over the last 50 years is man-made. Doing nothing is the bigger gamble here.

But, let’s say the IPCC is wrong, and that in fact climate change is a completely natural phenomenon and not man-made at all. It doesn’t change the odds that we’ll still have to adapt to a warmer climate, whether we caused it or not. Anything we spend on adaptation now will benefit us in the future even if we’re wrong about the causes of climate change.

Further, the writers of quote Nick Mabey’s point that “if you walked into a Security Council assembly at the UN, and explained to them that you’d prepared for a medium sized terrorist attack, you would be thrown out of the room.” Planning for crisis always assumes the worst case scenario, so why do we allow so much risk on climate change? As the report goes on to say:

“While we need a more sophisticated understanding of many earth processes, and while our computer models need more computing power and require further refinement, it would be the height of folly to wait until we had resolved these shortcomings before taking steps towards reducing the risks to which the situation is exposing us.”

To err on the side of caution is, in this case, to act to prevent climate change.

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