Climate Change: The Challenge of Making Decisions

Rural climate skeptics are costing us time and money. Do we keep indulging them? You can’t make up your mind about climate change. Is the science settled? Is man responsible? Is our job to…

Climate Change: The Challenge of Making Decisions

Rural climate skeptics are costing us time and money. Do we keep indulging them?

You can’t make up your mind about climate change. Is the science settled? Is man responsible? Is our job to save the whales or the polar bears? Is it too late?

In a sense, none of these questions can be answered, since the very concept of truth is fundamentally impossible to assess. However, it feels like one of the major issues in contemporary climate policy is the need to consider what we believe may or may not be true. That can make it complicated for us to make difficult decisions about how we want to allocate our finite resources to the mitigation of climate change.

A few years ago, the question was about what might happen when the sun dims or a new ice age sweeps in. It might not get warm enough in the Arctic or the Antarctic to prevent the loss of the sea ice, let alone create a truly ice-free world. (As it is, the sea ice is not entirely gone in the Arctic, and it is retreating in the Antarctic. One of the main reasons is because of the warming of the sun, which makes the sea ice a little thicker than it would be without the additional reflective effect the snowpack has on it.)

What we could do was prepare for a future where the sun dims, or where there is another ice age, or both. This is not something we can simply shrug off and hope it doesn’t happen. But our options are limited by our understanding of the physical processes that drive climate change.

As a result, it is not obvious what we should do about carbon emissions.

For now, policy makers have to work with their limited understanding of climate science by making choices about how our limited resources will be spent.

For the past few decades, the conventional wisdom on climate has been that reducing the heat in the atmosphere is the major way to reduce the amount

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