Climate Change--Will it be all Doom and Gloom if we do not Act?


What are the future impacts of climate change 10, 20, 50 years from now? Perhaps climate change will materialize in the form of more frequent extreme weather events, but the question often is how do we know it will occur? After all, science deals with probabilities, which means there is always some degree of uncertainty about what those impacts will be. Scientists look at computer models and point to likely events if the status quo continues based on trends in data. In essence, computer models that show there will be more flood events or that the city of Miami will be underwater in the future if the status quo continues is certainly based on a high percentage probability, but not on any 100% certainty since the discipline of science itself looks at overall trends and attempts to draw conclusions from them. Given that atmospheric temperatures have been getting warmer and are being accelerated by human or anthropogenic activities, it is clear that more extreme flood events are likely to occur.

Policymakers, given the nature of how science is formulated, may not truly understand whether such events are going to happen, so they may have the attitude of "why act" if there is not a 100% certainty of it happening? However, it would be good for policymakers to understand that with everything, there will always be a degree of uncertainty. Consequently, we can’t just sit down and do nothing because we aren’t 100% sure that it will occur. Scientists have come up with the concept of the precautionary principle, which states that “When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established.” As such, there is no way to know for sure if a rise in the Earth's atmospheric temperature due to primarily manmade activities in fact led to the sheer ferocity of Hurricane Katrina. However, what is clear based on scientific data is that Katrina-like storms are more likely to occur in the future and that cannot be ignored simply because there might not be a causal relationship between one event and climate change.

As such, reducing carbon dioxide emissions is truly about addressing human health and environmental concerns for which there is a relationship of more carbon dioxide from human activities increases the atmospheric temperature which makes extreme storm events more likely. Therefore, yes it will be doom and gloom if we do not act to address climate change and policymakers would be well-served by abiding by the Precautionary Principle when they render policy decisions.

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