Source: Understanding and Solving the Climate Change Problem website, climatechange.net.
In his talk to The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on November 3, 2009, Dr. Stephen Schneider talked about why the public, media, business and the government are having a hard time addressing climate change. Schneider thought scientists share a responsibility in the failure:
"We scientists are part of the problem because we tend to look for consensus."
Yes, consensus is the gold standard in science, as highlighted in another bite.
However, Schneider tells an example of scientists and policy makers taking consensus to an unhelpful extreme. It can lead to scientists not explaining the dangerous risks because they are too hesitant waiting for absolute certainty.
"I have a great deal of struggle with some of my colleagues getting them to be willing to talk about how many meters of sea level rise will we get in the next 100 to 200 years.
'Well, Greenland is melting much faster,' they will tell me and they are right. 'Much more than our theories say. Therefore, our models are no good and we are underestimating it, so we cannot say anything.' In fact, that is the time when you should be saying it THE MOST! (his emphasis). And the answer is: 'Hey this is worse than even our worst conception. We better worry about this!'"
Schneider thought scientists' task with climate change is helping the public make the best policy decisions based on these two questions:
What is the risk? What are the odds?
Schneider believed the risk of climate change was no different than going to the doctor and she says you have a bad heart condition. The doctor has no idea when you will have a heart attack and how dangerous it could be. However, the doctor is advising you to drastically alter your behavior, just like humans must drastically alter their behavior with climate change.
This is the danger for all of us, non-scientists (like me) and scientists. According to Schneider, is climate change is "a risk with the life support system of the earth and humans have to decide if we want to slow that down."
Image Source: Simpler Living, Living well with less, TimesUnion.co