Climate Change is Not a Prediction Problem, It's a Risk Problem: Manage it as Such

professor katherine richardson photo

photo: Matthew McDermott

One of the better descriptions of the problem of how we're not adequately addressing climate change came early in the first day of the Copenhagen Climate Congress came from Professor Katherine Richardson, Chair of the Scientific Steering Committee and Vice Dean at the University of Copenhagen.

After saying that "climate change is not a prediction problem—scientists understand that—it's a risk problem." Richardson went on to talk about the level of certainty that climate change is man-made stated in the 2007 IPCC report:Perhaps We Should Say There's a 10% Chance Humans Aren't Causing Global Warming?
Saying that the 2007 report concludes that it is 90% certain that human action, primarily in the form of burning fossil fuels and chopping down forests, is causing climate change, Richardson elaborated:

90%. Turn that on its head. That means there's a 10% or less chance that its not us that is doing this to the climate. A 10% chance. If you were going to the airport, to take an airplane, and someone said there was a 10% or less chance that that plane was going to get where you wanted to go [...] would you take the plane? Very Unlikely.

You might find a technician who had his or her head deep into the engine of that machine and could turn to you and say, 'Come on! I know this baby. She's going to make it.'

Would you believe that technician, or would you believe the people behind this that say there's a less than 10% chance or getting to where you want to go?

That's where we are with climate change at the moment. and for some reason scientists haven't been able to communicate that message, through media, to the politicians.

We Manage Terrorism Risk, Why Not Climate Change Risk?
Normally in our society, when there's a risk [...] let's face it, there are a lot of airports in this world. what are the chances of Al Qaeda hitting any individual airport. Probably very small indeed, but we spend an awful lot of money, a lot of effort in our society trying to minimize that risk. What we need to do is to understand that we need to minimize the risk of what we're doing to the climate on our planet.

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