Here’s the letter I wrote to the Houston Chronicle about climate change. Like the previous ones, it will probably not be published. Oh well.
Uncertainty Cuts Both Ways
I thought Sunday’s front page story about climate change skepticism presented the issues in a muddled way. Indeed, why, did the article keep citing Steven Koonin and his book which is already under fire from climate scientists? Climate scientist Ben Santer wrote, “It is simply untrue that Prof. Koonin is confronting climate scientists with unpleasant facts they ignored or failed to understand. The climate science community treats uncertainties in an open and transparent way. It has done so for decades.” Merely stating that uncertainty exists about climate predictions ignores the fact that predicted harms could turn out to be even worse than predicted. Says Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt (two leading climate scientists), “there is a great asymmetry in risk between the high and low end estimates. Uncertainty cuts both ways and is not our friend.”
Practically speaking, policymakers and citizens can and should still make decisions based on available scientific information and assessment of risk. That is why the IPCC Summary for Policymakers uses clearly defined phrases like “virtually certain,” “high confidence” and “medium confidence” to help nonscientists weigh the cost and benefits of various actions. Unfortunately, delaying action on climate change imposes additional risks and costs on both our natural system and global economy.
A carbon fee and dividend is a fast and effective way to reduce the production and consumption of fossil fuels. It also brings substantial benefits: cash dividends to consumers, reduced deaths from air pollution (estimated at 100,000 annually in the US alone) and more jobs created (renewable energy historically has created many more jobs per dollar invested than fossil fuels do).
Robert Nagle (not a climate scientist!)
(Read more of my unpublished climate change letters to the Chronicle here).