Perhaps we don’t have all of the answers about our climate, writes Andy Revkin:
If a policy prescription does not account for the real complexity in the climate system, and real gaps in knowledge about aspects of global warming that matter most, is it likely that the public and lawmakers will pursue a big transformation of lifestyles and economic norms to curb CO2 emissions in a growing world still more than 85 percent dependent on burning fossil fuels to drive economies?
I have doubts. As I’ve written before, while 20 years of intensifying inquiry has greatly reinforced confidence that humans are influencing climate in ways that could profoundly disrupt human and natural affairs, it has not substantially clarified climate outcomes that matter most: how fast and far temperatures and seas will rise in the next 100 years, how hurricanes will respond to warming, how regional conditions will change.
Wait — so there are things we still don’t know?
Well, of course; but, in the race to save the planet, details about the planet’s complex and changing climate somehow aren’t that important. Especially now that carbon fighters have been tapped to lead Obama’s energy and environment team, an honest, thorough examination of what we know and what we don’t know about the climate — about what is projected and what is actually observed — is crucial. Sound public policy demands it; our grandchildren deserve it.