The most important political decision to be made about climate change is how much effort to expend on countering it. That decision should be informed by a full assessment of the risks. At the minimum, we have to think about three things:
1. what we are doing to the climate;
2. how the climate may change in response, and what that could do to us; and
3. what, in the context of a changing climate, we might do to each other
Clearly, there are great risks not only of economic losses, but also of human losses. How to value those losses is as much a question of ethics as one of economics.
CLIMATE CHANGE: A RISK ASSESSMENT POLICY
How to value those losses is as much a question of ethics as one of economics.
Recommendations for continuing risk assessment
Our climate change risk assessment is far from perfect, but we hope it will provoke thinking about how such assessments are done, who they are done by, and who they are done for.
We recommend that:
The risks of climate change should be assessed in the same way as risks to national security or public health. When we think about keeping our countries safe, we always consider the worst case scenarios. Climate change gets worse over time, so that means we have to take
a long view.
We can start by identifying what we want to avoid, and then asking how the likelihood of encountering it will change over time.
In all three areas discussed above, our risk assessment would be strengthened if we were to use a consistent set of indicators – so we could track how expert opinion changes over time.
leaders should have a role in defining what it is we want to avoid; scientists can then assess its likelihood.
Military strategists should be asked what security risks they would expect to arise from a high climate change world, and how manageable those might be.
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