Magazine article Risk Management

The Political Climate

Magazine article Risk Management

The Political Climate

Article excerpt

As I am writing this, it is the end of March and, while technically spring, it snowed this morning on Long Island. Considering what an ordeal this winter has been for most of the country, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. At this point, I expect winter to last for the rest of our lives.

This has been the type of winter where everyone loses their mind a little bit and countless hack comedians and ill-informed pundits make the same bad jokes about how global warming must be a myth since it was so cold. This line of reasoning became especially ridiculous in January when below-zero temperatures led some North American commentators to scoff at the idea of climate change while, at the same time, Australians were experiencing record-setting heat on the other side of the world. Evidently these people couldn't comprehend that weather systems are not the same for everyone. I guess you can't blame them--geography and science are hard.

The problem with any discussion about climate change is that it always gets bogged down in political, economic and even semantic arguments. For instance, a 2011 University of Michigan study revealed that, when referred to as "global warming," 68% believed the problem was real. But when referred to as "climate change," that number increased to 74%. These divisions were even more pronounced when examined along political party lines. While 86% of Democrats thought climate change was a real problem, regardless of phrasing, only 60% of Republicans believed in "climate change" and just 44% believed in "global warming."

Among the scientific community, however, there is almost universal consensus that the world is getting warmer and humans are probably responsible to a large degree. Of course, politicians will argue about whether or not this is true, stamp their feet about the impact this should have on environmental policies, and complain that their opponents just want to destroy innocent businesses or innocent polar bears, depending on their motivation. But bloviating will not solve the problem.

A recent report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that many of the effects of a warmer climate are already being felt and will only get worse without change. Extreme weather events will become more common due to shifting weather patterns and warmer seas. …

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