I’m writing to comment on Chris Lykins’s editorial on June 16 titled “The climate change conspiracy.” In general I agree with his comments, but action on climate change should be a matter of considering risk, not just belief. I think risk can be better illustrated than by Mr. Lykins’s exaggerated example of a burning house. Many conservatives who oppose action on climate change characterize themselves as pro-business. However, our current political leadership sets policy in a way that large corporations would not do. That is, in forward planning for large projects many corporations will factor risks to the project economics. They do not make a decision (bet) only on the rosiest scenario.
For climate policy, the rosiest scenario is that the scientific consensus is wrong. That is, not taking climate change into account amounts to betting that the scientific method has failed in this one area despite the fact that it has shaped our society in so many other areas. Economists may debate the merits of moving to green energy independent of climate considerations. However, including risk that the scientific consensus is correct requires addressing the societal costs of experiencing further sea level rise or an increase in frequency and/or intensity of storms and fires. Include that risk and much of current policy ceases to make sense whether economic or any other way.
I also agree that believing climate science is an academic conspiracy makes no sense. Since climate science is multidisciplinary consider the difficulty of maintaining a conspiracy across departments in one academic institution much less across multiple international academic and governmental bodies. Money as motivation for a conspiracy requires an exaggerated view of the earning potential of adjunct and assistant professorships and scientists in various levels of government.
Also scientists we most remember advanced a new idea or overturned prior consensus. However, doing so requires undergoing a peer review process where one must address all the current information on a topic. This is in contrast to much of the chaff from some private institutes where one can get by with cherry picking observations.
Most predictions of climate change indicate threats to our well-being that range from harmful to catastrophic. As a society it makes no sense to continue to bet against science, particularly when we consider we’re placing the bet on behalf of our children and grandchildren.