“I told you so” is not an option by: JK | Wed 6 Jun

I recently heard a disturbing report on the Radio National breakfast show – what if the models are under-estimating the effects of climate change.

I often hear people say that we can’t afford to do anything until the science is certain. It may come as a surprise to some people that science is very seldom certain – even Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity is just that, a theory. Scientists are a conservative bunch; they tend to couch any statement in terms of probability or level of uncertainty so it is very unusual for any branch of science to have the almost overwhelming consensus that Climate Science has today. Scientists are willing, indeed eager, to consider any plausible explanation to further their understanding of the physical world. Climate Science, like no other, has been subject to the most rigorous examination over the past 30 odd years and has been vindicated time and again.

With over 95% of Climate Scientists in agreement that Climate Change is happening now, is anthropogenic (caused by humans) and a cause for very real concern, it beggars belief that there are still people out there willing to “bet the farm” on the off-chance that the scientists have got it wrong. Now, I would be willing to let them if the outcome were that they would be the only ones affected if they lose that bet; I might even be OK with it if the ones affected were only those near and dear to those calling for inaction. When it comes to MY family, however, I object to having a small cadre of people who have vested interests in the status quo to spread misinformation and doubt in order to further their own agendas.

The people screaming about the problems of economics post-GFC are missing the point. The economics shows that the cost of acting now is far less than the cost of acting later – indeed, had we acted 20 years ago instead of holding continuous talkfests, we might not be looking at the costs we are today as well as having to deal with the current outcomes. There are also opportunities to be had from de-carbonising our economy – not least of which is energy independence.Why not use these opportunities to create a more sustainable way of life?After all, the worst that can happen is that we create a better world for nothing!

Currently, our economy here in Australia is based upon “find it, dig it up and ship it overseas” – this may seem to be a viable option were it not for the fact that the resources that support this way of thinking can only be dug up the once. That is just not sustainable in the long run. Already we are seeing resources becoming more difficult to access – drilling for oil in over 2km of water MUST highlight that. Indeed, all the easily obtained resources have already been recovered and it is becoming ever more difficult (and energy intensive) to extract the valuable minerals from the low-grade ore.

This latest study highlights the fact that the uncertainty surrounding Climate Change is only around the extent of the damage caused not on the likelihood that damage will happen. Companies are in the habit of managing risk; households take out insurance policies to guard against the possibility of disaster striking. The risk assessment has been done and the likelihood is that the danger is greater than that previously thought. Why is that there is such an outcry against taking any action to mitigate the risk? Why, in this one instance, are people saying we cannot afford to take action to protect ourselves and our children? On the contrary, I believe that we cannot afford to NOT take action just because there is a (very) small chance the science may be wrong.

After all, if someone credible suggested to me that there was a 95% chance that my house was going to burn down, I would take steps to avert that. Well, the “house” we all live on is in danger – let’s shrug off this complacency and start managing the risk. Don’t let us get to the point of saying “I told you so” because, by then, it will probably be too late.

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