Uncertainty and Action on Climate Change

The uncertainties about climate change are many and great. But that, as Nobel Prize-winning economist Thomas Schelling explains, is no reason to postpone action.

The uncertainties about climate change are many and great. How much CO2 may join the atmosphere if nothing is done about it? How much global warming will it cause, and how will local climates, ecosystems, and vulnerable species be affected? What impact will such changes have on productivity, comfort, and health? And, of course, what are the likely costs of shifting to renewable energy sources and energy conservation?

As more becomes known about climate change – for example, the role of clouds and oceans – more uncertainties emerge. Nevertheless, the greenhouse “theory,” as it is sometimes disparagingly called, has been established beyond responsible doubt. There is uncertainty about the quantitative parameters, and there can be doubt about whether the warming of recent decades is entirely due to the “greenhouse effect.” But the basics of global warming are not in scientific dispute.

If we know that the earth is warming, but are uncertain about how fast and with what effects on climates worldwide, what are the most urgent steps that we should take to address it? One, of course, is to keep studying climate phenomena and their ecological impact. Another is to promote research and development aimed at remediation. We urgently need to understand what alternatives to fossil fuels there will be, how much energy can be conserved, how to extract CO2 from the atmosphere, and, if necessary, how to increase the earth’s albedo, its reflectance of incoming sunlight.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To access our archive, please log in or register now and read two articles from our archive every month for free. For unlimited access to our archive, as well as to the unrivaled analysis of PS On Point, subscribe now.

required

By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in

http://prosyn.org/G8otSEo;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.