Can We Have a 21st Century Conversation About Climate Change?
Nature recently published two seminal papers that have created huge interest in the scientific community. The first, entitled, ‘Human contribution to more-intense precipitation extremes’ and the second ‘Anthropogenic greenhouse gas contribution to flood risk in England and Wales in autumn 2000’ are available through subscription. Both add significantly to the growing body of evidence that support predictive models developed over the last few decades. An excellent summary and an interview of a scientist involved in the work is also available online.
Just like technology in the marketplace today, no longer are we talking about 50 to 70 years from now before our activities change the world. For those who think this is all just ‘part of the natural cycle’, it may be time to wake up and take notice of how our reliance on fossil fuels are clearly adding that ‘additional trigger’ to climate change in terms we can see today. Extreme weather events have significant costs to society in real dollars (think Katrina or the recent Australian floods).
It is understandable to fear change because of the potential for economic disruption that can happen with transition to a low carbon economy, but I am an optimist. I have no doubt that the best minds in the world and the power of human achievement can solve what seem to be intractable and long term problems. I only get discouraged when politics and unscientific methods are included in the discussion.
In our democracy, we all have a say in our future and vote for the representatives with whom we most agree. And even among ‘the faithful’ I see that I am not the only one who finds it discomforting that others seem to believe that one of the greatest opportunities we face this century ‘will just solve itself’.
But I must ask, can we have a 21st century conversation in the United States about climate change – one that avails us of all the scientific insights accumulated over the last two millennia - and not make claims to truths that we cannot possibly know to be true?
Can’t we just discuss climate change in terms of science and have public policy follow?