On his blog, Lee Jones posted a link to this book review. Basically, the argument is that people are (a) exaggerating the dangers of climate change and (b) using climate change as an excuse to pursue other ends. I would not deny either claim. The Intuitor review of The Day After Tomorrow is evidence of the first, and more can be found in many places. Of course, their review of An Inconvenient Truth suggests that not everyone is guilty of misrepresentation. As for smuggling your own agenda into discussions about climate change, I suspect that is equally inevitable. The question of how to behave justly in response to climate change is fundamentally connected to the history of economic development.
In an unprecedented move, I feel compelled to quote my own thesis:
While the IPCC has generated some highly educated guesses, the ultimate scale of the climate change problem remains unknown. On account of the singular nature of the earth, it is also somewhat unknowable. Even with improvements to science, the full character of alternative historical progressions remains outside the possible boundaries of knowledge. As such, in a century or so humanity will find itself in one of the following situations:
- Knowing that climate change was a severe problem, about which we have done too little
- Believing that climate change was a potentially severe problem, about which we seem to have done enough
- Believing that climate change was a fairly modest problem, to which we probably responded overly aggressively
- Observing that, having done very little about climate change, we have nonetheless suffered no serious consequences.
Without assigning probabilities to these outcomes, we can nonetheless rank them by desirability. A plausible sequence would be 4 (gamble and win), 2 (caution rewarded), and then 1 and 3 (each a variety of gamble and lose). Naturally, given the probable variation in experiences with climate change in different states, differing conclusions may well be reached by different groups.
As such, what it means to make informed choices about climate change has as much to do with our patterns of risk assessment as it does with the quality of our science. Exactly how it will all be hashed out is one of the great contemporary problems of global politics.