Given that there are still some uncertainties, the question of whether we should act on climate change came up during a dinner. Instead of spending time and resources on future impacts, why not address current problems in places with famine, water shortages, and genocides? It’s a valid question and interesting point to discuss (and perhaps those with knowledge in inter-generational equity can comment too.)
My dad gave me a simple yet illustrative analogy for discussing climate change. He told me to imagine that I visited my doctor. What would I do if my doctor informed me that, given my lifestyle, there is a high likelihood that I may have a heart attack or dangerous disease if I continue this way? (In effect, some scientists believe there is a high likelihood that earth may have a climatic change if we continue this way.)
I could rationalize the issue. Diseases are natural, should I even bother with prevention? Sure perhaps I played a role by consuming greasy foods and not exercising much, but I have limited time and resources, I currently enjoy my quality of life, and drastic changes might be difficult and expensive to handle. Moreover, the doctor said there was likelihood, but it was not certain. Should I get a second opinion?
How would you act?
What level of certainty is required to draw action?
The issue of climate change has been framed by some as low probability but high impact, where the cost of inaction is greater than that of action. At an individual level, like the medical analogy, a person gambles their own life but at a global level, inaction gambles many current and future lives. This is why there is a strong call for action now, before reaching a tipping point where negative impacts may become irreversible.