Avoiding the risks of climate change

Looking specifically at the US, I find it baffling that a country so obsessed with insurance and mitigating risk still seems to view climate change as such a far-off possibility that it's not worth the money it would cost to enact any viable policies.  As anyone with a car knows, you need to invest in car insurance before you decide to go driving because there is a possibility, however remote, that you will get in an accident.  If you wait until after you get in a car accident to purchase insurance, you have waited too long.  I feel that we are at that point with climate change policy and that one way to frame the issue within the arena of public policy would be to tell policy makers that it's time we take out a huge insurance policy against the effects of climate change.  As Gary Yohe pointed out, even Dick Cheney has declared that if there is a 1% chance of a really bad thing happening, then we should eliminate that 1%.  The Department of Homeland Security is a risk mitigation institution, one that is both expensive and popular across party lines, whose mission is "to secure the nation from the many threats we face" (dhs.gov).  These threats have mainly been presented as terrorist threats, however former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has stated, “It is in our national interest to confront the risk that climate change in vulnerable regions presents to American security" (pennlive.com).  It seems that by describing climate change as a risk we cannot afford not to mitigate, we might be able to move the conversation across party lines, which might just give climate change policy the momentum it needs moving towards COP21 next December.

One of the problems with comparing climate change policy and the costs associated with it to a giant insurance policy is this: it does not bring the conversation down to a personal scale, as Prof Kammen suggests.  It's important to make climate change mitigation palatable and to create a system that people want to engage with (Jessica Matthews).  One way to do this is to break the giant problem of climate change down into clear paths of action, highlighting the areas that need innovation and where the opportunities are for ordinary Americans to make their mark.  Mitigating the effects of climate change calls for no less than a new industrial revolution but this should not be daunting, it should be exciting; it should be folded into the American Dream, helping people feel that this is a moment when their big idea could shift the course of human development.  We need to remind people that climate change policy suggests win win solutions.  The rhetoric needs to shift from phrases that connote fear, limiting growth, high costs, and government interference to phrases like economic growth, jobs, and innovation that remind people that climate change policy is a win for the economy, a win for our enjoyment of life, and a win for the opportunities of our children.

Kaia RoseComment