Carbon emissions: Uncertain choices
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Professor Iain Stewart explains how there are often uncertainties in science. The detailed impacts on the climate system and human society that could result from greenhouse-gas-related warming aren’t known with certainty, but the scientific evidence indicates that there’s a risk of severe impacts. However, cutting emissions will also have implications for human societies and economies. So governments have to weigh up the risks of different options.
As Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk, David Spiegelhalter tries to make sense of the uncertainty in the science of climate change, and the implications for making policy decisions. ‘People are familiar with risk – we deal with it every day,’ says David. ‘But we know the way people handle risk doesn’t generally follow the “scientific” model – we tend to follow our feelings. Trust in the information source is crucial, and we slot in with what most people are doing and thinking. ‘Climate change pushes many buttons that make judgments difficult: apparently disputed science, delayed effects and a feeling of not being able to make much difference.’