Tomyamaguchi’s Weblog

Just another weblog

A different take on climate change

I have just finished reading an entertaining book with a different look at the issue of climate change. Greg Craven looks at it as a risk analysis problem with his book What’s the Worst That Could Happen? After reading it, I have been checking out his videos on his website, such as the one above.

The question according to Craven is not whether global climate will happen or not, but what is the best course of action, given that we are not certain if it will happen or not. He explains it thoroughly in both the book and videos so I won’t detail that here. I will point out some important ideas he brings up to consider.

The most important thing is I don’t need to be an expert to act on the information I have to influence policy. All I have to know is the cost of acting or not acting given the probability that we humans are changing the climate or not.

Next is the recognition that scientists can be wrong. In fact, science is built on scientists being wrong and acknowledging that they are never certain. When a scientist publishes in a peer reviewed paper and others find mistakes that means the scientific process is working. Craven tells us that scientists don’t offer up their theories to be proven but to be disproven. If mistakes are found, the theory is fixed or thrown out completely. If a respected scientific journal publishes a paper that turns out be wrong, it will print a retraction to maintain its credibility. Finding those mistakes moves us closer to the truth.

Craven has a tool we can use to rank the sources by credibility. Does the source have experience in the subject? Do they know what they are talking about? Does the source have a bias? Are they able to be fair? Craven says we should always be aware of our confirmation biases, that is only using evidence that agrees with what we believe. We can rate sources so that the highest on the scale are the ones with the most expertise and the least bias. In fact, he rates sources higher if they argue against their normal biases. For example, we would expect Greenpeace to support the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. What if a major oil company comes out in support of the reduction? Oil companies are usually on the other side of environmental issues than organizations like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. If a company or organization argues against its usual bias, that is significant.

In the end, science is imperfect, but it has a better track record than other methods of figuring out how things work. When it comes to climate change, we don’t have time to wait for more perfect information. To delay means we have chosen inaction, and, if the scientists are right, we don’t have time to delay. In this climate experiment, Craven points out, we are in the test tube.

March 11, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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