Code red

April 28, 2008

What risk is acceptable in establishing “safe” global warming goals, policies and actions? In the absence of a well-informed scientific consensus that harm would not ensue, the precautionary principle suggests that if an action (or inaction) might cause severe or irreversible harm to the public or the environment, the burden of proof falls on those advocating the action (or inaction). For nuclear power stations in the USA, the regulatory standard is that there should be no more that one-in-a- million risk of serious accident. In 2004, the chance of being killed in a commercial air crash was about one in four million. If instead the risk was one in a thousand — a 0.1% chance — we would not fly. Yet we seem to accept much higher risks as reasonable in setting global warming targets. The talk is about a 20–30% species loss for a rise of 2°C, very likely coral reef destruction, possible ice-sheet disintegration and the prospects of economic damage “on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century” (according to Nicholas Stern) as if it were a game of chance, a poker hand where with an ounce of luck the right cards will be dealt and the Earth will “get out of jail” free.
FOE Australia – Climate Code Red