Thursday, July 19, 2007

Schelling on climate uncertainty

Thomas Schelling, the 1995 Nobel Economist, puts a fine point on the argument that the inarguably vast uncertainties with regard to climate change are a justification for inaction in terms of GHG abatement or adaptation and preparedness measures:
In some public discourse, and in sentiments emanating from the Bush Administration, it appears to be accepted that uncertainty regarding global warming is a legitimate basis for postponement of any action until more is known. The action to be postponed is usually identified as “costly.” (Little attention is paid to actions that have been identified as of little or no serious cost.) It is interesting that this idea that costly actions are unwarranted if the dangers are uncertain is almost unique to climate. In other areas of policy, such as terrorism, nuclear proliferation, inflation, or vaccination, some “insurance” principle seems to prevail: if there is a sufficient likelihood of sufficient damage we take some measured anticipatory action.

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