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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Some Thoughts on Climate Change

There have been some significant back-currents recently in the wave of progress on climate change; the outcome from Copenhagen that was short of many people’s expectations; some climate change scientists and some involved in the IPCC pursued poorly conceived public statements, exchanged particularly unscientific emails or exaggerated the strength of their findings; recently three significant members of USCAP have left that group. Skeptics have appropriately highlighted these issues.

To put things back in perspective, I enjoyed reading Frank Robert’s economic view on balance of risks in the New York Times on Sunday. Of course, we need to be careful not to be overly reliant on fear as the motivating factor. ‘Just in case’ is not a strong argument for action. The balance of risks has to be compelling.

The scientists have a dilemma. Not long ago I recall the scientific community was being criticized for not being forceful enough in its message. I recall comments that it was too mild in its language, too many caveats, too academic in its articulation of the outcomes. Now it seems we have our just desserts and much of the criticism has reversed. Of course balance is everything and perhaps one lesson is the importance of being true to ones core values.

I think many companies are at a bit of a loss as to how to respond to these back-currents and as a result have gone quiet on the topic or reverted to energy efficiency and energy security as the reasons for reducing energy usage. But for those who are convinced by the scientific evidence of anthropogenic global warming this is not the time to do that. This is the time to stick to principles. Regaining the momentum later will be much harder than the effort to maintain it now.

I do think companies need to get better at articulating why we hold the positions we do. We owe it to our stakeholders to be able to do this and if we can define clearly what evidence underpins our positions, it easier to define if and how we should respond to a particular change.

More than ever, I don’t think we can ignore those who are skeptical. We need to engage them with the same respect and sense of inquiry and open debate that we do those who are supporters.

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