an emphasis on doubt

Public policy is generally implemented under circumstances where the risk of opposing choices is known (Resnik 1987:13). One of the major issues with climate change policy is that the exact extent of risks is not known. Across the globe Governments have successfully avoided action on climate change by focusing on this unknown risk. Boykoff and Boykoff (2004) believe that it is exactly this doubt that has prevented international action to curb practices contributing to global warming. Unfortunately when the associated risks of a decision are unknown society often turns to a ‘wait and see’ approach (Sterman and Booth-Sweeney 2007); regrettably this approach just doesn’t work with climate change, where further time without action means increasing accumulation of gases in the atmosphere locking us into future global change.

So where does the blame lay?… In 1998 a draft report of a proposal compiled by industry opponents of action regarding global warming was leaked to the press. Among the ideas in the proposal was a ‘campaign to recruit a cadre of scientists who share the industry’s views of climate science and train them in public relations so they can help convince journalists, politicians and the public that the risk of global warming is too uncertain to justify’, with the major goal being to ‘raise questions about and undercut the prevailing scientific wisdom’ (Boykoff and Boykoff 2004:133). ARTICLE: Industrial Group Plans to Battle Climate Treaty. I have no doubt that this sort of deliberate manipulation occurred in many developed countries, persisting until very recent times.

The uncertainty and complexity surrounding climate change, its impacts and implications have long hampered efforts to raise its profile on the national and international agenda. Mixed messages, academic controversy and political scheming have frustrated a pubic who have a key role to play in any likely mitigation strategies (Lowe et al 2006:435).

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