Rather than minutes or hours, Americans in the possible path of a hurricane have to make a decision. Days ahead. Do I evacuate? Do I believe the forecast? There is that cone of uncertainty . . . do I take a chance? Is the science of hurricane forecasting, “settled”? Again of course not, but decisions, human and economic decisions affecting sometimes millions are made, knowing the exact outcome is uncertain.You hope your chance of having a car accident is less than 100%, yet you buy car insurance anyway. You hope the chance of your home catching fire is closer to 0%, yet you buy home insurance anyway.
Supposedly the great Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough making predictions, especially about the future”. However, we make decisions every day about some prediction whether it is the traffic during rush hour, canceling a weekend picnic or headed with my family to a shelter when I hear a tornado siren.
Why should a decision about what action we take based on expert outlooks for our climate and national, regional and local changes 50 or 100 years from now be any different than making a decision, taking actions, minutes, hours, days or even a week from now knowing the tornado or hurricane, snow storm or seasonal forecast is also uncertain. The science is not settled but the modern science of forecasting short term weather is solid and the modern science of estimating long term climate changes (yes global warming and it impacts) is solid. Are either 100% accurate? Do we require 100% accuracy before making a decision or taking action? Ask folks in Joplin what they will do the next time a tornado warning siren sounds.
We make decisions every day without 100% certainty, other than the sun will come up. The science of short-term weather and longer-term climate is solid. Neither is 100% certain but look where we have come in 60 years from no alerts to “You could be killed if not underground or in a tornado shelter”. Where will we be in making climate related decisions 60 years from now? Let’s hope history gives us some perspective for our future shared decisions.
The cost of cutting carbon pollution is tiny compared to how much inaction could cost. With 97% of climate scientists agreeing that our climate is warming, man-made carbon pollution is to blame, and we only have a narrow window to take action, shouldn't we get moving now?
Or should we kick up the footrest on our recliner & hope that tornado out the window will miss us?