given the density of the news surrounding the IPCC report and the dire implications of a report that leaves little/nothing to question as to the state of things this nugget from NNT, et al was a wry bit of commentary.
We have only one planet. This fact radically constrains the kinds of risks that are appropriate to take at a large scale. Even a risk with a very low probability becomes unacceptable when it affects all of us – there is no reversing mistakes of that magnitude.
Without any precise models, we can still reason that polluting or altering our environment significantly could put us in uncharted territory, with no statistical track-record and potentially large consequences. It is at the core of both scientific decision making and ancestral wisdom to take seriously absence of evidence when the consequences of an action can be large. And it is standard textbook decision theory that a policy should depend at least as much on uncertainty concerning the adverse consequences as it does on the known effects.
– Norman, Joe, and Nassim Nicholas Taleb. “Climate Letter.” Issues in Science and Technology, 2015.
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