Is Trump’s surprise election the end of climate change? Probability & Severity


Can you reason your way to action against climate change, without getting bogged down by the science? Why were many surprised that Trump won? Why should we not think binary or black and white? Are you surprised when you throw six? What happens if you throw in severity too? Do you want to be dependent on the Middle East? What is a true refugee crisis? Why do you have a fire insurance? Why are climate change deniers often nationalist?

* Disclaimer: I apologize for any language errors in advance. Do not hesitate to point to any errors. Some of the editing is crowd sourced, due to the limited numbers of hours in a day. More info at the end of the post.

 

Have you ever rolled a black and white die?

Is anyone surprised if a die rolls six? Or twelve with two dice? Few will be shocked (please consult your doctor if it disturbs you). The probability of six with one die is 1/6 or 16.6%. And twelve with two 1/12 or 8.3%. The probabilities were similar for a Trump election victory. Yes, small probabilities, but certainly not impossible. Some estimations even gave Trump a 1 in 3 change of wining.

Why were many so surprised by the election result? Often people think binary or black and white about issues i.e. it is sure Clinton will win and Trump will lose. With probabilities that is only true over time e.g. rolling the dice many times. But an election is a one-off event. Trump the idiosyncratic candidate fueled the surprise, but probabilities already take in account the character threats. They are what they are (based on polls in this case).

Many important things we encounter cannot be viewed to be simply either true or false. We are much better of if we look at things on a spectrum of probabilities. This is most important when looking into the future. Take human caused climate change, we cannot answer this with a simple yes or no. The question is: what is the probability that we create a disaster.

 

Why should we look at severity?

The probabilities logic becomes more meaningful, when throw in severity as well. There is a lot of debate about how much of the scientific community thinks that human CO2 production will cause catastrophic climate change. For example, having to move or abandon places like Miami, or maybe even Manhattan this century. What about an increased refugee stream, because dry areas are getting even drier? Many argue there is already a refugee crisis. If climate change gets out of hand “you ain’t seen nothing yet”. Therefore, trying to avoid a climate catastrophe is also in the interest of nationalists.

With climate change the probability is of less importance, because the severity is so great and the effects likely irreversible. Even if the probability of a disaster happening is only 5 to 10%, the consequences are severe enough to attempt prevention. Because the chance of running out of fossil fuels is a 100%. Hence, at one point we will have to move to renewable sources anyway. We have the technology to start a large-scale transition, and it is becoming more affordable by the day.

 

Do you have a fire insurance? What if you are wrong?

Not moving and finding out we are wrong is catastrophic. There is not much an existential risk If we move to renewable and we proofed to be wrong. Maybe a down tick in the economy. Yes, there are people who have invested heavily in fossil fuels. Maybe they just made the wrong investment decision, given the severity of the potential problems.

Then add all the other positive effects of renewable energy. Think about clean air, innovation, and last but not least, the increase national security through energy independence from the Middle East. This should also appeal to nationalists.

It is similar to a car or fire insurance. Why do you have these? The probability of something happening is minuscule, and on average it is cheaper to go without. You do not believe that? Insurance companies make money of the premiums we pay. You probably have insurance, because if  your house burns down the severity is so great, that you might end up bankrupt the rest of your life if not insured. How many people do you know? How many people do you know whose house burned down? I would always ask a human created climate change denier, what if you are wrong? No sane person can claim that the probability of human caused climate change is zero. Even if you are a skeptic, would you not rather be on the safe side?

 

The Paris Climate Accord

Apparently President Trump does not favor the safe side, as he withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord. I do not think this is so bad as some make it out to be. The accord is nonbinding. If he did not have the intention to abide, better he provides clarity by withdrawing. This gives other countries a realty check, and maybe even an opportunity to get ahead in innovation. Moreover, many of the steps are in the hands consumers and companies, many of whom seem more willing follow through, because of the withdrawal. However, If governments want to intervene, the best way is probably a CO2 tax, more about this later.

 

I apologize for any language errors on the website, I do this all by myself with no editorial help. Do not hesitate to point to any errors. I want to get the ideas out there and I am very bad at spotting language errors and I am certainly not a linguist. Accepting the risk of looking unprofessional, I decided to crowd source some of the editing to the readers. Thanks in advance. And, if you have any other ideas do not hesitate to let me know trough social media or the contact page. Many thanks for your interest in my work.

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