Our Hot Mess: The fate of the world

I'm sure there was doubt, but no, I’m not a fortune teller. I do not know what will happen to the planet and the species, what will be the ultimate outcome of climate change. But I do have a foolproof argument created by a man by the name of Greg Craven, creator of a viral video and a following book entitled "What's the Worst That Could Happen? A Rational Response to the Climate Change Debate." This is an argument that will make nearly all disagreement over climate change response moot.

It seems unrealistic and simply silly to believe we could all reach a consensus on how to address the problem that is global climate change. After all, we still have skeptics ranging in beliefs from “climate change doesn’t exist” to “yes, it’s happening, but we didn’t cause it.” So how on earth could we all come to the conclusion that we need to act fast? A conclusion that “even the most hardened skeptic and the most panicked activist can agree on.” Craven boldly contradicts with simple logic. The way he puts it, there are four possible outcomes of our climate change dilemma. On one end, human-caused global climate change (GCC) is either true or false. On the other end, we either take action or we don’t. This can be set up in a table for hybrid crossing, as depicted below. And for the purposes of contrast, all scenarios will be taken to the extreme.

  1. This is the scenario where human-caused climate change does not exist, yet we took significant action. As a result, we will waste a lot of money with increased taxation and burdensome regulation. There will be record-breaking layoffs globally due to draconian regulation, downward-spiraling into a global depression that would make “the 1930s look like a cakewalk.”

  1. Now this is version where GCC doesn’t exist, and thankfully, we didn’t take any real measures. We made the right decision! No horribly high unemployment rates, no global depression, no consequences. Sure, we still will have our problems, but GCC won’t be one of them.

  1. Again, we make the right decision since GCC turned out to be real and we took the appropriate action. We still have the cost associated with scenario 1, but it was money well spent counteracting the effects of  GCC. Overall, new regulations make it a different but livable world.

  1. This is the other extreme. Here, the “doomsayers turned out to be right,” but we took no significant action. With the most severe result possible (like we granted in scenario 1), we have global economic, political, social, environmental, and public health catastrophes. This is with the worst predictions of GCC where sea levels are “rising 10-20 feet, entire coastal countries disappearing. Hundreds of millions of people worldwide displaced, crowding in on their neighbors, causing widespread warfare over scarce resources and long-standing hatreds. We’ve got entire forests dying and burning, massive droughts alternating with catastrophic floods. We’ve got the bread baskets of the USA  and Russia turned to dust bowls causing catastrophic famine. Terrible disease epidemics spreading like wildfire. Hurricanes like Katrina becoming the norm… a world straight out of science fiction… This is a world that makes Al Gore look like a sissy pollyanna with no guts who sugarcoated the bad news.”
A simple diagram on our climate change options

The brilliance of the table lies in its agreeability, not to mention its simplicity. Since we can’t know for certain what the physical world will do in response to this potentially human-caused issue, we cover the grounds that GCC potentially does and doesn’t exist. We can all agree those are the two possibilities. And since we as humans have complete control over our response, we have both grounds covered with the “yes” and “no.” So our future will fall roughly into one of these four squares. Now we have to look at our options, which are the two “yes” and “no” columns since the other variable of whether or not GCC exists is out of our control. Out of those columns, it only makes sense to choose the option with the least amount of risk. Craven deems it “a bit like buying a lottery ticket.” We could either buy the “yes” ticket or the “no” ticket. With the “yes” ticket, our future lies somewhere on the scale of global depression to a different but livable world. The risk associated with buying lottery ticket “yes” is that global depression resulting from acting when we not need to. With the “no” ticket, our future lies somewhere between the same, relatively happy world and… the end of the world? It should be natural to choose the ticket with the least risk.

Craven succinctly concludes, “When faced with uncertainty about our future, the only responsible choice - the only defensible choice, really the only choice - is [yes to taking action] in order to eliminate [scenario 4] as a possibility because the risk of not acting far outweighs the risk of acting.”

This is a bit of a heavy topic, but don’t be discouraged. The best thing you could do is spread the word because the only way we will say “yes” to taking action is through changes in public policy. And changes in policy only happen when enough people demand them. So spread the word. Make this part of your conversations, part of your thoughts. Together we can truly make a difference in our lottery ticket buying.

--Elke Arnesen, LSNews.org Columnist

Edited: BP

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