'What's the Worst That Could Happen?' A Book Review of a Rational Response to the Climate Change Debate
Everybody else: Think you know all the ins and outs of climate change? Still plowing through all the models and possible scenarios for our climate's future? Leaning one way (or the other) about what to think about global warming? Not sure who to trust? Pick up a copy of "What's the Worst That Could Happen? A Rational Response to the Climate Change Debate" by Greg Craven (that's right -- the same guy behind the wildly popular YouTube video called The Most Terrifying Video You'll Ever See. 7 million people can't be wrong), and decide for yourself.Image credit: Greg Craven
The End of the World as We Know It?Here's the short version of what Craven's talking about: Global warming is likely to cause the end of the world as we know it. It might not. Are you okay with holding the check at the end of the day if it does? Think about it, and decide what you're going to do.
Here's a slightly longer version: There's a lot of hubbub about global warming these days, coming from both sides of the aisle. Anyone looking for climate change information has seen it -- it's on any public forum, blog, or other online community out there, including here on TreeHugger -- and it's often boils down to a version of "The globe is warming!/The globe is not warming" and "We're the ones doing it!/It's a natural cycle."
All this yelling can make it difficult to separate the real info from the spin, the science from the politics. Do you just listen to whomever makes the most noise? Do you just trust the most recent reports? A lot of TreeHuggers have already made up their minds, but many other Americans have not -- and the number of folks who think it's caused by humans is slipping.
So, rather than write another book filled with the findings and opinions of scientists, proclaiming that, indeed, global warming is real, happening now, advancing more quickly than we thought, and probably our fault (there was already a pretty good book and movie that did that), Greg Craven decided to help those undecideds among us. Not with more facts and spin, but with the necessary tools to actually make the decision for ourselves.
This makes his book a bit unusual in the canon of all the climate change reading out there, but it's a smart approach.
A version of Greg's Decision Grid -- Credit: Greg Craven
The Decision GridBy taking out the rhetoric, and replacing it with a few scenarios with simple True/False outcomes, Craven puts the power in your hands to answer the question: What's the Worst That Could Happen? The result is a handy grid that's a big piece of his decision-making puzzle, that isn't about climate science; it's simple risk management.
Here are the scenarios: 1. We take significant action now (with signification upfront economic costs, in theory) and global warming is either a) false or b) true.
2. We don't take significant action now (and save whatever economic costs might result) and global warming is either a) false or b) true.
1.a) is a bummer (spent the money, wasn't worth it); 1.b) is a huge relief (saved the world!) 2.a) is nice and 2.b) is the destruction of life and planet as we know it. Hmm.
This is a simplified version (and it makes more sense when you can actually look at the grid) but the point remains: It's not about absolute right and wrong; instead, it's more about how much you're willing to risk. Are you willing to risk a new economic model to save the planet? Are you willing to risk that global warming isn't going to be a problem on a thoroughly destroyed planet and the end of the world as we know it?
Confirmation Bias, the Credibility Spectrum, and our Glitchy BrainsIt isn't quite as simple as True/False, though, and part of that is our own fault. If we're not careful, we'll allow our own biases about sources and information cloud what might otherwise be a clearheaded decision. Craven does a good job of leading us through this confirmation bias, and also introduces what he calls the "credibility spectrum" to help place sources who might try to influence us -- it's sort of a "If you have a broken leg, you'd go see a doctor and not an insurance salesman, right?" kind of thing, except for data and information on our changing climate.
It all adds up to a complicated-sounding (just read the book and for the full effect) but linear and easy-to-follow process that leads to being able to finally make a decision. So, once you decide, what happens then?
Image credit: Greg Craven
Let's Take it Viral!If you're still reading this, you may be like a lot of people -- concerned about climate change, convinced it's a problem that isn't going away, but aren't entirely sure what to do. While there aren't any easy answers -- anyone who kept up with TreeHugger Matt's excellent coverage of the United Nations Summit on Climate Change and related New York Climate Week events knows we have a long way to go -- Craven starts us with a simple, but potentially game-changing, idea: Help spread the word. He made it work before, when his videos went viral, so let's do it again with the book.
And that's the real takeaway for TreeHuggers who don't need any help figuring out what to think about climate change: Perhaps the most impactful thing you can do is simply spread the word. And tell those you tell to keep spreading it.
The only drawback to this approach is that Craven is asking the world at large to do two things: 1) Think; and 2) Act. His bet is that if you're willing to do one, you'll be inspired to do the other; he's not wrong to think that, but it does represent a bit of a leap of faith on his part. It's not that readers are unable to think, or unwilling to act, but how many will be able to be honest enough with themselves to look past their personal biases? I'll admit to having a tough time with it as I read through the book, though I may not exactly be the target audience.
In any case, the book can serve a purpose for just about anyone (unless you're a steadfast denier, in which case, why are you still reading? Joking, just joking...) -- a climate science newbie or casual observer of global warming in the news will get a lot out of it, and those who believe global warming is a pending problem can help spread the word. So read this book, grab an extra copy (or two, or three) and help pass the good word along -- what's the worst that could happen?