Thinking inside the box

If you’re unsure about the argument between climate scientists and those who deny the world is warming up, hear this: A high school science teacher in Oregon has changed the frame of the debate by looking inside the box – or chart, actually.

Greg Craven does so in his book, What’s the Worst That Could Happen? A Rational Response to the Climate Change Debate. Or you could watch his YouTube video titled “The Most Terrifying Video You’ll Ever See,” which has gone so viral it’s drawn millions of views.

What does he say? Well, you should really read his book or watch his video, but here’s the heart of his argument: How lucky are you feeling?

Craven flips the climate debate on its head by drawing a chart with two rows running across titled “False” and “True” as answers to whether the world is warming. Then he draws two columns running up and down representing “Significant Action Now” and “Little to No Action Now.”

When you look at the outcomes in the chart’s four boxes, you see what he means about feeling lucky. Craven says we should look at the climate debate not as a true-or-false question, but an exercise in risk management. In other words, in which of those four outcome boxes does social and climate hell break loose, and how in blazes can you avoid it?

Risk management requires insurance of some kind. That’s why it’s a good idea to have auto insurance if you drive a car. Otherwise, you court financial devastation if you hit someone head-on, for example. Craven says the insurance we need now is, well, check out his argument for yourself.

He also says it’s critical for us to confront our political leaders and other “multipliers” like journalists, business CEOs and bloggers. Confront how? By telling them that climate change is not just another “issue” on someone’s laundry list (see my piece on “Pyramidal Thinking”).

On the contrary, the stable climate we’ve enjoyed for the past 10,000 years has been the foundation of our agriculture-based civilization – and it’s begun to destabilize. That means weather in certain parts of the globe are getting weird, sometimes warmer and sometimes colder, but warmer overall.

So how lucky are you feeling?