Archive for August, 2008

How Optimism and Pessimism Shape Our Views on Climate Policy—Part II: Evidence

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

In my first post on this topic, I explored how optimism and pessimism can influence policy preferences for dealing with climate change. I mentioned two key issues relating to policy choices: 1) society’s sensitivity to earth system disturbance, and 2) our potential to mitigate. Each can be viewed with optimism or pessimism, which leads to four possible perspectives: the true optimists, true pessimists, earth system optimists (who are mitigation pessimists), and mitigation optimists (who are earth system pessimists).

Today I’ll focus on the evidence that can support or diminish the standing of each of the four perspectives. (more…)

How Optimism and Pessimism Shape Our Views on Climate Policy—Part I

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

Whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist probably influences your views on how society should deal with climate change. Today I hope to open a running discussion that explores how our outlook affects our climate policy preferences.

I see two key areas where our views on climate policy may be influenced by whether we’re optimists or pessimists. (more…)

Science in the policy process: rational decision-making or Faustian bargain?

Monday, August 4th, 2008

As a scientist who works on policy, my mantra is, “public policy advances the interests of society most effectively when it is grounded in the best available knowledge.” It is, in my view, a logical philosophy for someone trained in science and committed to the advancement of science in society. Science provides us with an understanding of the universe and can thereby underpin rational and informed decision-making. Without a rational basis, our choices are left to rely on superstition, guesses, or narrow interests—key ingredients to outcomes that are sub-optimal.

Yet colleagues from both the science and policy communities often seem to challenge this view, at least implicitly, when confronted with the most contentious and challenging issues facing society. Most recently, several have questioned my efforts to develop a workshop series on Federal climate policy—and thereby contribute to a more fully informed policy discussion—because the series will include some contentious topics (e.g., carbon fees and geo-engineering) that, if implemented rashly, could pose dangers to society. (more…)