Sunday, January 31, 2010

Applying Science to Science

GS suggests that terms like "global climate change" and "economic depression" and "political action" fall into the category of large, multifaceted, heavily-laden abstractions lacking specific meaning when used generally without specific context. This can make it difficult to discuss various facets of those terms in a reasoned scientific way, since one person's "major polluter" may look like an "economic necessity" to someone else. Based on these over-under-generalized terms, our global society has found it difficult to come to grips with not only how to act regarding these issues, but whether to act at all.

This YouTube video offers an interesting, if somewhat simplistic, proposal:

Basically, the speaker demonstrates that we can come to a conclusion about whether to act without resolving the question of whether global climate change "is really happening" or not. He shows that, regardless of how you define the potential outcomes of the "is it real" debate, you can estimate the relative cost of acting or failing to act sufficiently well to decide which course makes sense.

While someone could attack the potential outcomes he assigns to various possible actions as oversimplified, his logic seems pretty reasonable and straightforward. If the worst risk of not acting appears to exceed the worst risk of acting, why would we not act?

Of course, one might answer, "because *I* face the risks of our acting now, while future generations face the risk of our not acting now." But that's an argument for another day.

For now, I would agree with the video maker: what's the worst that could happen?

Maybe this?

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