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Precautionary Principle

“When an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human health, precautionary measures should be taken even if some information is not fully understood.”

In Climate Change that generally means that intervention should be early, not late.

Context for Precautionary Action

Humanity has treated use of fossil fuels as an untreated gambling addiction. Instead of analyzing the situation, planning a reasonable response, and executing the response, we have kept playing the gamble that one more year won’t make a big difference. We have played that gamble for > 30 years.

But we don’t really know when something will go critical. We know the structure is getting weaker, we know there are potential problems. But we ignore them. Where are we?

The ecosystem responds slowly to changes. It took the whole industrial revolution to get where we are today. Scientists tell us the drastic change we will make today will only make a difference about 30 years hence.

1. Try this allegory. Let's say that we had finally recognized we should replace the Sellwood Bridge. We choose to depend on the old bridge span until the new span is complete. Say that will take 10 years. If it turns out the old span will only last 5 more years, we would have a problem.

2. Another allegory: An allegorical description of compulsive gambling on waiting another year instead of addressing climate change. The Last Journey of the SS El Faro

3. If we have success: So, if we quit gambling early enough we might get the following result:

We know there are crises lurking in the distance, so we hop to taking the emergency action as fast as we can. Luckily, we turn out to be in time. None of the bad things happen because we made enough difference to prevent them.

4. If we have failure: But, it could go this way: We could continue to gamble. 2 years? 5 years? 10 years? Then what?

We didn't know which bad event would come first – maybe we even changed the order with our emergency action. But if we didn't outrace all of them, it could still be extinction for the human race.

Too many unknowns => Take Precautionary Action

There will never be a better time than the present.

In current discussions of “How can we best meet Paris Accord Targets?” More and more expert responses are: “ Quit arguing details and respond as fast as we can.”

Evidence of Lurking Crises

why_is_this_a_crisis.txt · Last modified: 2018/04/22 03:30 by eda