With the publication of the Government’s Climate Change Bill it was of course inevitable that the few who seek to cast doubt on the science of climate change would be indulged in the media and even here on the letters page of the Irish Times.
Consider another scientific fact – smoking tobacco does not cause lung cancer. Indeed, smoking is only one of the many risk factors for lung cancer and some scientific studies indicate that there is less that a 10% causative relationship between smoking and lung cancer. Yet, society, quite correctly, deems smoking to have entirely adverse and unacceptable human health consequences and institutes strict public health policies to discourage people from smoking including, for example, a ban on smoking in work places, hefty consumption taxes and a prohibition on people under eighteen from purchasing tobacco. Of course, smoking is often associated with other unhealthy lifestyle choices which society wishes to discourage.
Contrast this to the overwhelming majority of scientists internationally who, as a result of empirical data and rational deliberation, consider that there is at least a 90% causative correlation between human activity and global warming. These include scientists from organisations who put human beings in space and predict our ever-changing weather with much greater effectiveness and precision than our economists predict our economic fortunes.
All science has bias – it is an inherent predicament of the human condition. Dr. Keely (Jan 5th) must also accept that his science is biased. Yet we can never do nothing. We move forward in our endeavours by carefully weighing up the risk and benefit of our behaviour based on the best advice available to us. In this case, it is the overwhelming advice of the vast majority of the world’s scientific community.
While we in the western world can luxuriate in abstract theoretical debates on the scientific accuracy of anthropogenic climate change, those in the poorest parts of the world suffer the dire consequences of our inaction. And what if the science is wrong? In this case we will only have succeeded in creating a more just, sustainable and clean world for nothing.