The climate conference in Copenhagen has ended with an accord brokered by President Obama between China, India, Brazil, and South Africa to do something about climate change. What that something actually is supposed to be remains to be determined as it seems. The accord is non-binding and therefore incredibly weak. World leaders, among them Ban Ki Moon, call the agreement a start and a first step in the right direction. To many people, including me, that does sound somewhat cynical. For years already we are aware that our environment is changing. Science is providing us with evidence about that fact. But Science is not giving us results to use as they are, as apparently some politicians hope. Since the science explaining climate change is so highly complex, it is not only bound to produce errors once in a while, it is also only usable to a certain degree as 100% reliable evidence for action. Continue reading “UN climate conference in Copenhagen: Yet another case for evidence based politics?”
Today we live in the Age of Green. Everyone has realized that we use our natural resources carelessly and thereby are not only slowly destroying the Earth but also ourselves, whereby the speed in which that will happen is not yet determined. Energy generated by wind power therefore seems to be a wonderful solution to many of the problems. Wind is a natural resource that we do have in abundance and it seems to be easy to use. But the wind parks we have so far encounter huge problems. The wind turbines in these parks are huge and very tall propellers that frighten human beings and animals alike, and two-thirds of these turbines are not rotating most of the time. So now an article in Science points out that scientists have developed a new wind turbine that is far more efficient and is designed in a way so that migrating birds can circumnavigate the turbines easily and that the wind parks will need much less space then they are using now. That should be exciting news, since it would solve many problems. The question however is if this solution will be looked at at all. The reason for my skepticism is that those companies that have build these giant wind parks have already spent a lot of money on them and are probably very unwilling to change the system as entirely as it would needed to be changed. In terms of evidence based policy making, the wind parks illustrate the problem of the accumulation of evidence. They were a perfect idea in theory but not in practice, as so many scientists had pointed out already at the time. But the quick solution to the energy dilemma won out over the skeptics and now, when new evidence is available, it seems doubtful that something will change, because the financial interest of those involved in the wind parks is probably more important. But if we really want to make changes, should we not be waiting for the right evidence, and maybe newer science, in order to make the right decisions? We live in the Age of Green and we want to save our planet. Hence we should carefully and patiently accumulate all the evidence we can get to achieve that goal.
Environmental Ethics: An Overview
By Katie McShane, Colorado State University
(Vol.4 May 2009)