Why The Science Doesn’t Really Matter Anthropogenic climate change is real, and presents a significant threat to the future prosperity of mankind; or global warming is a myth, and moving away from fossil fuels will cost us a lot of money needlessly. The debate on whether anthropogenic climate change is real or not is in fact largely irrelevant in the context of whether action should be taken to significantly reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases. If we accept that we can never know the future with one hundred percent certainty, what really matters is this: what are the risks to humanity if climate change is real and we don’t act, and what are the risks if it isn’t real and we do.
An Uncertain World Risk assessment is widely used in decision-making around the world, by a huge variety of organisations in almost every industry and business sector, as a way of managing uncertainty. The fundamental precept is that we can never foresee the future with complete accuracy, but we nonetheless need to make decisions that allow business and society to move ahead.
In short, we cannot let ourselves be paralysed into inactivity simply because the future is unknown. Sound familiar?
Programmi rascheta transformatorov i drosselej. Jun 7, 2012. Kaspikz_lichnyi_kabinet, 6172, dagestanskaia_skazka_pechke-poleno_chitat,.
This is exactly where we are with climate change right now. Do we move ahead and act, based on what we know now, or do we do nothing and wait until the science is settled and agreed to by all? (Of course the interesting thing about man-made global climate change is that by the time we do know everything for sure, and have managed to convince everyone, it will be far, far too late to do anything about it - climate change is essentially irreversible, in terms of human timescales). How Risk Assessment Works The basic risk assessment process goes like this: first identify the hazard of concern; second estimate a likelihood that the hazard will occur; and finally estimate the consequences that would result. In engineering, for instance, this system is widely used to determine how risks should be managed and what design changes should be made to mitigate risk.
Risk mitigation can be achieved either through reducing the probability of occurrence (by changing the design, for instance), or by devising ways of mitigating the consequence (through responsive measures). When designing a bridge, offshore oil platform, or a refinery, engineers consider a red-zone which encompasses risks with catastrophic consequences (death, serious injury, or significant financial cost are typically considered “unacceptable”), even if their probability of occurrence is low.
Also in the red zone are risks of high probability and modest consequence. Risks that fall in the red zone must be mitigated – they are designed out and prevented from happening, or actions are taken to move the risk to a lower category. The yellow zone includes risks of modest severity and high likelihood, or high consequence and low probability.
Management plans are put in place to reduce the likelihood and severity of these risks. The figure below is a risk assessment matrix typical of those used by industry around the world. This schema is used by many of the large industrial multinationals on a daily basis to help them make decisions about managing risk. For example, if a pressure vessel at an oil production facility is deemed to have a high risk of exploding, and that this explosion would have a moderate possibility of killing a worker, this risk would fall in the red zone. Mitigation measures would be required, and the vessel would be replaced or upgraded. Action would be taken.
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