Why we cannot wait for climate science to be completely settled

To those who say that we should just wait and see how the climate changes, without taking action to reduce our emissions, I offer the following analogy:

To assume the best possible outcome, and to make plans only on that basis, is akin to the United States assuming they would be ‘greeted as liberators’ in Iraq. Even if things had unfolded that way, it would have been irresponsible to make plans only on that basis. If they had drawn up contingency plans, and taken pre-emptive actions, on the grounds that serious opposition was possible, nobody would have thought that behaviour inappropriate, even if the outcome ended up being better than feared.

Arguing that we should wait for the science to be completely settled means waiting until climate change has actually taken place. Given the complexity of the climate system, and the fact that we only have one planet to work with, there is no way we can ever be 100% confident that our models and projections are correct. Therefore, to delay action until we have certainty is to delay action until it can no longer have any effect. It is akin to starting your contingency planning long after the war has ended.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

9 thoughts on “Why we cannot wait for climate science to be completely settled”

  1. Tristan,

    The important thing is that it has not been adequately “understood and agreed upon” by either the general public or policy-makers.

  2. Pingback: Rebutting Wente

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