Thomas Friedman of The New York Times has a column out on climate science, noting that if there is even a 1 in 100 chance of preventing something terrible we should take action.
In response his colleague, Russ Douthat, disavows the principle Dick Cheney used to call for attacking Iraq, arguing instead that climate solutions need "a rigorous cost benefit analysis" before being put in place.
My response to both men, and to you, is the same.
What if you're wrong? (I found this wrong way sign at Wrecked.org.)
There is money to be made. But there is a possibility that climate scientists are wrong, and that the skeptics are right.
No doubt economic growth would be impacted if we slow the move to renewable energy in favor of coal, oil and natural gas. Supplies will be reduced, prices will be higher. Maybe other countries that throw in with the skeptics will gain more economic growth than us.
That's the worst that can happen.
But let's look at what might happen if the climate scientists are right. Ice caps are gone, seas rise, global warming accelerates without the air conditioning provided by ice melting and thawing.
Meanwhile the nations that take climate change seriously and invest heavily get an enormous market advantage. It won't save low-lying countries like the Maldives, it won't save Florida, but if the skeptics are wrong it's the countries that have invested most heavily in renewable energy that will benefit.
So we have economic growth on one side and national security on the other.
We could be wrong either way. Scientists have been wrong before. I remember being taught that all the dinosaurs were dead, and were closely related to lizards. I remember learning that room temperature superconductors were impossible, and that if you got AIDS you would be dead within a few years.
Scientists are not priests. Theories are guesses. It's up to policy makers, and citizens, to make decisions based on what scientists tell us, ordering our societies and economies accordingly.
So, climate skeptics, what if you're wrong? I have described what might happen if climate science is right. What is really the worst that can happen if you're right and I'm wrong?
I think you're turning your back on economic growth, on national security (you can't make America energy independent on hydrocarbons), and on the future of your grandchildren.
You think I'm going to cost you what -- some money?
I don't get it.
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com