Spring has finally sprung here in Oregon. It's warm and sunny.
Which reminded me -- after a wintry focus on health care reform -- that Congress now has to get serious about passing climate change legislation.
To fire up my enthusiasm for saving humankind from catastrophe, this morning I reached into the on deck section of my bookcase for a book that I bought last year but hadn't started to read yet.
I'm already four chapters into Greg Craven's "What's the Worst That Could Happen?" (short answer: a freaking lot) Craven is a high school teacher at Central High School in Independence, Oregon -- just 20 minutes from our south Salem home.
His You Tube video about why we need to deal with global climate change (a.k.a. global warming) went viral. You can see why millions of people watched the video by doing so yourself on Craven's web site.
His refreshingly different approach to the problem is encapsulated in this classroom'ish drawing. Craven isn't so much concerned with the science of climate change, as what are the consequences of four scenarios for humanity.
Global warming either is false or true. And we either will take urgent action to deal with global warming, or we won't. Each of these four possibilities leads to different outcomes.
One is super-nasty: global catastrophe!
That's what happens if global warming is true, and we don't do anything to slow our carbon emissions. The probability of global warming being true is high. Peeking ahead in the book, it seems that Craven gives "True" at least a 75% chance, given how much larger he makes that row of his diagram compared to the "False" row.
If you knew that your house had a 75% chance of burning down while you were living in it, wouldn't you do something? Fast.
You'd buy fire insurance. You'd check the wiring. You'd make sure the fireplace was in good working order. You'd cut the tall dry grass in your yard. You'd get fire extinguishers.
You sure as heck wouldn't say, "I'll take my chances on a fire not happening. It isn't certain that my house will burn down. So I'll assume that it won't."
This is almost exactly analogous to the risk of global climate change. There's horrible consequences if it is true and we don't do anything about it. That's why people buy insurance -- to guard against catastrophe, even when it is a low probability.
With climate change, the risk is high. Certainly a lot higher than that enunciated in Dick Cheney's 1% doctrine:
If there's a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It's not about our analysis ... It's about our response.
Tom Friedman points out that climate change also is a weapon pointed at humanity's head, with a disturbingly large chance of it going off.
When I see a problem that has even a 1 percent probability of occurring and is “irreversible” and potentially “catastrophic,” I buy insurance. That is what taking climate change seriously is all about.
If we prepare for climate change by building a clean-power economy, but climate change turns out to be a hoax, what would be the result? Well, during a transition period, we would have higher energy prices. But gradually we would be driving battery-powered electric cars and powering more and more of our homes and factories with wind, solar, nuclear and second-generation biofuels.
We would be much less dependent on oil dictators who have drawn a bull’s-eye on our backs; our trade deficit would improve; the dollar would strengthen; and the air we breathe would be cleaner. In short, as a country, we would be stronger, more innovative and more energy independent.
But if we don’t prepare, and climate change turns out to be real, life on this planet could become a living hell. And that’s why I’m for doing the Cheney-thing on climate — preparing for 1 percent.
Makes sense. Hopefully Congress will do the same. Fast.