Some dangers of 'dangerous' climate change

TitleSome dangers of 'dangerous' climate change
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsRisbey, JS
JournalClimate Policy
Volume6
Issue5
Pagination527-536
ISBN Number1469-3062
Keywordsclimate change; danger; thresholds; climate policy, SCIENCE; POLICY; RISK
Abstract

The UNFCCC has set the objective of preventing 'dangerous' climate change. The concept of climate change being 'dangerous' has generally been interpreted to mean that there are thresholds below which the planet is 'safe' and above which it is in danger. This creates the fiction that danger can be averted, when that is largely a matter of perspective. Policies based on fictions can succeed if the major parties are willing to go along with them, but this is not the case at present. It is dangerous to try and motivate the public on the basis of a patent fiction, since that obscures policy-critical ignorance and may ultimately create more brittle political frameworks. An alternative to maintaining the fiction is to acknowledge at the outset the arbitrary and conditional nature of any specific choice or definition of what is 'dangerous' climate change and what is not. Although our choices are somewhat arbitrary, they can be informed by a range of analytical perspectives, and the decisions we reach have real import. In this setting, we need a way to provide order to (arbitrary) choices that draws on what is known, but still acknowledges the conditional nature of the choices. It is argued here that the aesthetic realm may be suited to this need.