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Banbury Cross

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Post details: Climactic Poker

Climactic Poker

Global warming is a tough call. On the one hand the Arctic ice melts, methane in the same region leaks freely and weather records keep popping up all over the place. On the other hand, average temperature rise has slowed down a bit and the catastrophic consequences we have been hearing about for a number of years now failed to materialize. Should we do something about it or not?

Climate change deniers like to marginalize the threat by saying that the Earth temperatures have always fluctuated. Indeed, they did. But whole species were wiped out in the process, too, not to mention that natural disasters could reach magnitudes which our fragile agriculture is ill prepared for. Sure, a herd of hardy mammoths might not have minded an occasional monster storm, but in a world where many man made structures are quite sensitive to vagaries of elements we better pay attention.

To put it in other words, let's consider the following scenario. You have two potential problems. One of them is fairly likely, say its odds are 50%, and its realization will cost you damages of $100. The other one is fairly unlikely but catastrophic. Let's say its odds are only 5% (one in twenty), but if it happens, your losses would add up to $100,000. Which of the two problems will you worry about?

I would say the latter one. Yes, the case for the harmful climate change is still tentative. But the huge potential damage outweighs the smaller likelihood. We should worry about the climate change long before its symptoms are obvious to everyone - for when they finally are, it might be too late. If this seemingly innocent trend turns into a full blown planetary emergency, the associated cost of dealing with it would be gigantic. Do we really want to put our way of living on the poker table?

As every year, I spent this Christmas in the Czech Republic with my family. It was the warmest Christmas on record. Not a flake in sight. After the holidays, we went for a short visit to my parent's summer house in the mountains. It is a healthy 2 mile walk from the nearest train station, and the dirt road leading to the house is usually snowed in or completely frozen in late December. But this time around it was all soft and muddy and when we reached our destination our boots looked as if they just came back from a field trip to German trenches. I do not remember that ever happening before.

I simply flinch at the idea that the next generations would never see the White Christmas we used to enjoy as kids. I think we should make an effort to prevent any harsh and irreversible climate change that might be heading our way. Even if the odds of that actually happening are only one in twenty.

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