Archive for May 14th, 2011

BPSDB Disempowering ourselves again

It’s unlikely that the U.S. is going to take serious action on climate change until there are observable, dramatic events, almost catastrophic in nature, that drive public opinion and drive the political process in that direction,” Stavins, director of Harvard’s Environmental Economics Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said today in an interview in Bloomberg’s Boston office.

Disaster Needed for U.S. to Act on Climate Change, Harvard’s Stavins Says

The argument that people will not do anything until it starts to affect them has probably been around for all of history. Certainly it is an old one with respect to climate change. The most recent iteration by Harvard economist Robert Stavins.

I was not able to find  much response to Stavins in the climate science blogosphere, perhaps because we have repeatedly been here before. However, there were two which illustrate several of the false assumptions that tend to get associated with this argument:

  1. What do we mean by “affect”?

  2. “Act” or react?

  3. Why catastrophe? Why Wait?


Let’s start by noting that what is being referred to is what is known as “trigger events” in discussions of political activism. Trigger events are things that spike public awareness of a particular issue, for good or ill.

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