Weighing the Relative Risks of Action, Inaction

Oddly, one of the best arguments I’ve ever heard for The Precautionary Principle — in Tom Friedman’s NYT column yesterday, titled “Trump’s Folly” — never once mentions the term.

No matter.

Here’s the idea:  when considering a response to a looming threat, ask which way the risk(s) cut:  underestimating the problem, and consequently doing too little; or overestimating it, and potentially overreacting?

Friedman offers this analogy:  “if we over-prepare for climate change and nothing much happens, it will be exactly like training for the Olympic marathon and the Olympics get canceled. You’re left with a body that is stronger, fitter and healthier.”

“What’s the Downside?”

When it comes to warding off climate change, the equivalent of a stronger, healthier body is a cleaner environment, and a stronger, more sustainable economy.

Friedman again:

“What if we prepare for disruptive climate change and it doesn’t get as bad as feared? Where will we be? Well, we will have cleaner air to breathe, less childhood asthma, more innovative building materials and designs, and cleaner, more efficient power generation and transportation systems ” all of which will be huge export industries and create tens of thousands of good, repeat jobs. Because with world population steadily rising, we all will need greener cars and power if we just want to breathe clean air, no matter what happens with the climate. We will also be less dependent on petro-dictators.”

–“Trump’s Folly,” Thomas Friedman; The NYT (9/13/17).

Post-Harvey, Irma

Of course, it hardly needs elaborating what will happen if humanity instead sloughs off warning signs of all-too-real climate change, and does too little, too late.

Easy choice, huh?

P.S.: The catch, I suspect, has to do not with skepticism about the economic benefits of clean(er) energy — specifically, all those new jobs.

Rather, it has to do with exactly who’s going to get those jobs (“not us,” the people of West Virginia — and Trump voters — no doubt think).

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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