Playing it safe with climate change

Tim Flannery’s not exactly a distinterested party — not that there are anymore, not among serious people — but this can’t be anything but bad news. Reports the AP:

Worldwide economic growth has accelerated the level of greenhouse gas emissions to a dangerous threshold scientists had not expected for another decade, according to a leading Australian climate change expert.

Tim Flannery told Australian Broadcasting Corp. that an upcoming report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will contain new data showing that the level of climate-changing gases in the atmosphere has already reached critical levels.

Flannery is not a member of the IPCC, but said he based his comments on a thorough review of the technical data included in the panel’s three working group reports published earlier this year. The IPCC is due to release its final report synthesizing the data in November.

That’s the trouble with these many-variable systems. You can argue that the number of factors that go into determining global temperatures is so vast that you can’t possibly predict what’ll be happening 50 years from now, and you’d be right. Maybe, you can say, nothing bad’ll happen if we don’t do anything about the gases scientists are pretty darn sure contribute to climate change. Fair enough — but then again, maybe everything’ll be a heck of a lot worse than anybody predicts now.

Given that unknown, what’s the safest option?


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