Common sense practices employed in policy and economics are often disregarded when it comes to the issue of climate change. Adhering to the precautionary principle, for example, is an approach used in taking policy action where there is a risk of harm to the public of inaction, despite an absence of scientific consensus. A definition derived from the 1998 Wingspread Conference sums it up:
When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.
This approach is unfortunately not fully realized within climate change policy decision-making. Although there is consensus in the scientific community regarding the reality of climate change, uncertainty remains about the specific nature and danger associated with these changes. Nonetheless, there is no question that the risk worsens with increasing inaction. Phrases regularly batted about during climate change conversations –“tipping point”, “catastrophe”, “existential threat” – are worrying, and rightly so. Climate change, if unchecked, will wreck havoc on the natural world and its inhabitants (that includes you, humans!).
The use of precaution is a common sense approach to dealing with unknown, potentially dangerous problems.
|priˈkô sh ən|noun: “a measure taken in advance to prevent something dangerous, unpleasant, or inconvenient from happening”
In the case of climate change, precautionary approaches take the form of reducing and/or mitigating emissions of greenhouse gases, as well as adapting to current and future impacts of climate change.
On the bright side, there is a global, centralized institution in place to specifically support these activities! Unfortunately, so far this support has not resulted in very much action.
Image from Center for Environment, Development & Technology, Malaysia