Ecologically Nothing Ever Really Dies

EcoLogically Nothing Ever Really Dies, Only transformed from one useful form to another...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Stop sweating the small stuff. Give climate change uncertainty a hug

I recently moved to a new place for a 6 month research fellowship. There is always that nervous pang you get whenever you are planning to go to a new place. Its more a mix of excitement and fear. Am i going to be comfortable there? Is it going to be anything like home? Even something as small as finding a new barber to do your hair just the way you like it can be quite a trip. We love our comfort zone and the uncertainty of the unknown is always unnerving. Yet, you move anyway and in no time you are enjoying the experience of discovering this new space and what it holds. More often than not, once you are over this initial hurdle of doubt, you realise that the adjustment is not as bad as you had initially imagined it.

This kind of reminds me of the challenge of inaction on the climate change issue. Most of the hurdles to concerted action and investment towards climate change mitigation and adaptation focuses on the uncertainty of the future. This is reasonable of course...i should know, given my own issues with location change. But uncertainty is a part of everyday life isnt it? We deal with it all the time. It hardly ever stops us from making the decisions that are needed and moving forward...unless you are a paranoid schizophrenic of course. Then you bury your head under the covers and whine about how difficult life is while entertaining "they are out to get me" theories swirling around in your head.

In my mind, we have hardly ever had as much information about the decisions we have to take in our lives as we do now on climate change. You would think that by now we would have already "moved," especially with  a scientific consensus! Maybe we just dont realise just how difficult such a thing as scientific consensus is. If you have ever followed debates at scientific conferences or the trail of comments in peer reviewed journals,  you would know that scientists are always at loggerheads. They hardly agree on cause and effect or solutions, if they do, they are in disagreement on methods.  Its more like these guys... see video.


Anyway, now scientists are in agreement (at least most of them...) and still a caution first approach prevails. Researchers Markowitz and Sharrif at the University of Oregon in Nature Climate Change, and in their post on the moral case of climate change think its partly because "Uncertainty breeds wishful thinking."..."Uncertainty about future outcomes generally increases self-oriented behaviour and optimistic thinking... uncertainty also promotes optimistic biases." In short, climate change uncertainty as reported by scientists is usually interpreted as "that doesnt look too bad" or "which is it? Those people (scientists) should make up their minds," thereby leading to inaction. We need to get over this hurdle one way or the other and act. Markowitz and Sharriff suggest packaging scientific evidence in a way that triggers moral concern. I bet even if scientists were convinced to go that way, it will be quite some time before they agree on how to do it.

Shouldnt we just embrace uncertainty and stop sweating the "small stuff"? Stop worrying weather #seewhatididthere? you will find a barber at your new place to do your hair right or not, especially if a group of knowledgable beauty experts agree that there will be enough barbers to choose from and that it is "highly likely" you will find one that suits you.