Friday, August 12, 2016

Uncertainty Can't Be an Excuse for Climate Inaction, Researchers Argue

Writers warn that waiting for absolute certainty in climate models spells doom for a warming planet.

Those who deny climate change like Sen. Ted Cruz often cite uncertainty in climate models as a reason to discount them altogether. (Credit: Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
In a new essay, researchers dismantle a common form of climate skepticism:  defending inaction on climate change by citing lingering uncertainties in climate models and in other scientific evidence of the mounting crisis.

This tactic of using uncertainty as an excuse to stall policy action on global warming is often driven by self-interest and politically motivated, say the essay's authors, led by a senior scholar at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.  The authors use the label "neoskeptics" to describe people or companies that have shifted the uncertainty debate in this way.

The best way for climate experts to respond, they say, is to focus more on areas of science that expose the true costs of inaction.  They cite a growing body of peer-reviewed work in the disciplines of decision science and risk management.

"Although neoskeptics claim to accept the reality" that humans are changing the climate, "their inference that inaction is justified seriously under-emphasizes some well-established characteristics of [man-made climate change] that are important for informing choices," the authors wrote.

These characteristics are:  "that the risks of extreme and damaging outcomes are continually increasing, so that waiting for certainty has increasing costs; that inertia in the system may result in its crossing major tipping points without timely warning; and that there is value to insuring against worse cases, especially when they are likely to be worse than those of the past."

Read more at Uncertainty Can't Be an Excuse for Climate Inaction, Researchers Argue

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