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Probability-Based Decision Tool Helps Clarify Climate Change Policy Questions

By Michael Cochrane,

Uncertainty doesn’t necessarily imply a lack of clarity. We can be uncertain about the outcome of a particular event or question, but we can be very clear about the nature of the questions and the likely outcome of a sequence of those events.

The study of global climate change is fraught with uncertainty, as is much of science in general. This isn’t unusual. By its very nature, science must be conservative. Findings and conclusions should have a high degree of statistical significance (that is, you wouldn’t expect them to happen by chance) yet, at the same time those conclusions can never be announced as “certain” or “settled science.”

But that uncertainty doesn’t mean we can’t be clear about the range of possible outcomes of events tied to global warming. Clarity regarding these questions is especially important for policy makers. Given the massive monetary and non-monetary costs to society associated with some policy decisions regarding anthropogenic (human caused) global warming (AGW), it’s important such decisions not be made in the current cauldron of politically-heated rhetoric about AGW.

One way for policy-makers to gain needed clarity and think rationally about governmental responses to the risks of global warming is to model the uncertainty surrounding the key questions that must be addressed in any response.

In “Modeling Climate Change Policy Decisions Using a Probability Tree,” we propose a probability-tree-based model designed to explore a range of scenarios associated with the answers to a sequence of yes/no questions fundamental to the issue of global warming. The questions are:
  1. Is the earth actually warming?
  2. If the earth is warming, is this actually a problem?
  3. If the earth is warming, and this is a problem, is human activity causing the warming?
  4. If human activity is the primary cause of global warming, will reducing this activity also reduce global warming?
  5. If human activity is not the primary cause of global warming, is it still possible to stop it?
Continue reading on Earth Rising Blog.

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Director of Communications

The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation seeks to magnify the glory of God in creation, the wisdom of His truth in environmental stewardship, the kindness of His mercy in lifting the needy out of poverty, and the wonders of His grace in the gospel of Jesus Christ. A coalition of theologians, pastors, ministry leaders, scientists, economists, policy experts, and committed laymen, the Cornwall Alliance is the world’s leading evangelical voice promoting environmental stewardship and economic development built on Biblical principles. The Cornwall Alliance is a non-profit religious, charitable, and educational organization. All gifts are tax deductible.
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