Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Climategate and the Precautionary Principle

Thomas L. Friedman wrote a thought-provoking op-ed piece in The New York Times about the recent climategate shenanigans and smartly applied it to the precautionary principle. The precautionary principle, as used in the environmental sphere, should be considered alongside risk management, i.e.: if an action or policy might cause severe or irreversible harm to the public or environment, in the absence of a scientific consensus that harm would not ensure, the burden of proof falls on those who advocate taking the action. The precautionary principle has been invoked many times and continues to be applied, for example, in the European Union's ban on GMOs and hormones (from meat products).

The climategate "scandal" has fuelled climate deniers and has cast a shameful image on those climate scientists who have manipulated data. But this still is no reason to stop any action on climate change. As Friedman points out in his article, what would be the choices?

If we prepare for climate change by building a clean-power economy, but climate change turns out to be a hoax, what would be the result? Well, during a transition period, we would have higher energy prices. But gradually we would be driving battery-powered electric cars and powering more and more of our homes and factories with wind, solar, nuclear and second-generation biofuels. We would be much less dependent on oil dictators who have drawn a bull’s-eye on our backs; our trade deficit would improve; the dollar would strengthen; and the air we breathe would be cleaner. In short, as a country, we would be stronger, more innovative and more energy independent.

But if we don’t prepare, and climate change turns out to be real, life on this planet could become a living hell.

No comments:

Post a Comment