A recent finance article in the NY Times drew some interesting parallels between the false sense of security surrounding both the financial crisis in 2008 and the nuclear power plant crisis in Japan. In both instances, the rhetoric of risk management for both seemingly implausible scenarios expressed no concerns about preparedness.
Extending this parallel to climate change raises some interesting questions about our ability (or desire) to manage risk. How exactly we are to prepare for a potential disaster on a scale never before experienced. Or, worded differently, are we actually capable of taking potential risk of this magnitude seriously? And what would the most appropriate response look like? The pervading argument latches onto technological innovation as a mediator of any potential effects of a changing biosphere. We can simply innovate ourselves out of the situation, they say. But technoscientism in this sense has historically proved to present ever more problems in the future without necessarily solving the original one – natural gas exploration offers a clear example.
Even more basic to these questions is whether or not we should respond to a potentially changing climate – after all, the debate is still undecided about whether climate change is even real.
Recognizing our false sense of security about the stability of the climate is less about climate change supporters declaring a victory and more about understanding our responsibility to the future. Even if one does not buy the argument that the climate is changing, one can still realize that the future shortage of available petroleum and its current role in recent political and economic instability means that it is a serious risk. This is a vital conversation. We have staked our entire infrastructure on a single non-renewable resource, and climate change is akin to Russian roulette – a game, as Norris says in the article, “you lose only once.”