The Risk Matrix.
I wrote this in the belief that this topic is one of the most important in geopolitics today and for tomorrow, I am hoping that we continue discussing the issue for a good while to come.
I would like to make a couple of points.
Firstly, regardless of any uncertainty surrounding the matter, there is now enough momentum in the debate to have motivated our captains into making decisions that will have a profound effect on the geopolitical landscape.
Carbon trading, bio-fuels, non-combustive alternate energy sources, water rights and usage decisions, science funding, settlement patterns, agriculture and land management, fishing... to name just a few of the issues which currently affect the global power balance and which are given extra weight and urgency when viewed through the greenhouse lens.
Secondly, it is a common refrain of the political Right that it will cost trillions of dollars to address the problem and that if it's a false alarm it will be trillions wasted for no good reason.
Here is some simple logic for you...
If we do act on the assumption that the threat is real and it turns out not to be, then we will indeed have spent trillions that could have been spent elsewhere.
In that scenario, we will have unnecessarily freed ourselves up from our dependence on fossil fuels through the huge investments in developing their alternatives that we will have made.
We will have needlessly reduced our industrial and vehicular emissions, leading to cleaner air for our increasingly asthmatic children to breath. Not to mention the benefits to the global ecology.
We will have pointlessly improved household efficiency in terms of thermal management and general power consumption leading to more people having a bit more cash in their pockets, to spend on the things that our captains insist we all need, (like that shiny new super efficient, internet enabled, washer/dryer/water recycler/irrigator). Need I go on...?
I could also mention certain demonstrably needless trillions that have been spent very recently, for which the knock-on economic and social results have been...well, not quite as fortuitous as those I've just outlined.
On the other hand, if we do spend those trillions and it turns out to have been necessary, then few would argue that it would be the best spent trillions in history. In fact it seems increasingly likely that this threat is real and immediate.
Of course if we choose not to spend the trillions and this all turns out to be a false alarm, then there are no losers except for those who are loosing already. Nothing changes. Business as usual.
The worst case scenario is that we do nothing to mitigate the effects of global warming and the threat materializes as predicted by the climatologists, ecologists and other scientific professionals who for many years have been working to try to understand these things.
In that case we will have witnessed the most catastrophic failure of intelligence in history.
Not a failure in the delivery of that intelligence.
A failure in the assimilation of it.
We were warned but we did nothing...
When the experts in a particular field have a strong opinion on the likely behavior of a system they are studying and that the outcome could be disastrous if appropriate action is not initiated, ignoring the experts is begging for disaster.
It strikes me as being disturbingly similar to some recent willful discounting of intelligence that resulted in the needless spending of those trillions I alluded to earlier...By the very same folk who are leading the charge in discounting the climate scientists what's more!! Is there a pattern forming there?
A simple diagram with the decisions to act or not act heading the columns and the reality or otherwise of the threat heading the rows illustrates the decision making quandary beautifully. Do the math. This diagram yields four end possibilities. They are outlined above.
Either the threat is real or it isn't. Either we act to protect ourselves or we don't.
We have no choice as to the reality of the threat.
Therefore the only control we have over this situation is the choice as to whether or not to act.
If we don't act, we get either;
(1 Business as usual, or
(2 A potentially catastrophic future for which we are utterly unprepared and over which we have no control.
If we do act, we get either;
(1 A better, cleaner, hi-tech world, or
(2 A better, cleaner, hi-tech world and the mitigation and control of what would otherwise be a potentially, catastrophic future. It doesn't seem to be a difficult choice, but then my wealth is not dependant on oil to any great extent.