Greg Craven – What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

September 18, 2009

Greg Craven is a high school science teacher and climate change activist from Oregon. His new book is What’s the Worst That Could Happen? A Rational Response to the Climate Change Debate.

In this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Greg Craven discusses the youtube video on global warming he created that now has nearly 8 million views. He talks about applying game theory to the “decision paralysis” people have surrounding the global warming debate, using a “decision grid.” He explores misunderstandings most people have about the nature of science, and whether or not science can provide certainty about important questions facing society. He emphasizes as a starting point the acknowledgement, whether one is a skeptic of global warming or a “panicked activist,” that one could be wrong about global warming. He argues that the evidence is not what is most important in the climate change debate, because each side has “evidence” to support its conclusions. He talks about “confirmation bias,” and how it makes it difficult to find out the truth about global warming. He explains why it is less important to personally live “green,” and why others kinds of social environmentalist activism is more important. He details why America’s mobilization in World War II and also modern social networking on the internet are the only two things that give him hope regarding responsibly responding to climate change.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

This is point of inquiry for Friday, September 18, 2009. 

Welcome to Point of inquiry. I’m DJ Grothe. Jim Underdown point of inquiry is the radio show and also the podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank advancing reason, science and secular values in public affairs. And at the grass roots. Before we get to this week’s guest, I want to mention that next month I’ll be appearing along with my friend Jamy Ian Swiss at CFI Michigan’s Magic, Science and Skepticism event. It explores the natural relationship between these three domains. So it’s a daylong workshop where we get into some of the history of magic in science and how they intersect. And also a lecture panel discussion, other things throughout the day. And then in the evening, Jamie, Ian Suess, one of America’s great magicians, is going to be performing a show for everyone there in western Michigan, part of that center for inquiry called Heavy Mental. So if you can make it. We’d love to have you there. You can get more information and register at CFI Michigan dot org. My guest this week is Greg Craven, an American high school science teacher in Oregon, and he’s also a climate change activist. Couple years ago, he created a viral video on YouTube about global warming. And out of that came a book that we’ll be discussing today. Welcome to Point of Inquiry, Greg Craven. 

Great. Thanks, T.J.. It’s nice to be on. 

Greg, you’re a high school science teacher. We like those around here. You’ve had this real impact, though, not just as a science teacher for the relatively small number of students you talked to, but in the whole kind of climate change debate. You’ve been. You’ve become kind of a player. And it all kind of started with this YouTube video you did on global warming. Now what? It has something like seven million views. 

Yeah, about seven and a half at this point in two years. 

Wow. Did you ever think you’d be this huge? 

No. Well, I knew I was messing with a chaotic or a non-linear system. Bye bye. Hidden YouTube in the whole viral nature and address books pointed to address books and feedback loops. If you get famous and more people look at it. So the main thing I knew was it wasn’t predictable. But you can’t plan on it at all. So. So I had hope. So I wasn’t too surprised, but I was definitely very excited. So it’s not unlikely, but it doesn’t stun me because I know what the potential is out there for sort of an explosion of viral communication. 

Tell me describe the video for our listeners who haven’t seen it, who aren’t in that seven million number. It’s it’s not a video of the evidence for or against climate change. It’s different. 

No. I had grown frustrated personally at the what I perceived as a huge gap between the current state of understanding of climate change in the scientific community and the general populace, especially in the United States. And I was playing with this basic idea of a decision. Great. It’s a basic logic tool or game theory tool, and it allows you essentially to compare possible future scenarios based on what might or might not happen and based on what your choices are. And it really was intended to cut through this decision paralysis that everyone has about. Look, I don’t want to give up a bunch of tax money and my freedoms in life. It’s necessary. Right. So we want to know whether global it’s a very natural reaction. We want to know whether global warming really is true. If it’s true, is it us? If it’s really us, we’re going to really going to be bad. And if it is, can we do something about it? I don’t want to spend a bunch of money unless we know those things, which is a natural reaction. But my frustration came from people misunderstanding the nature of science in that most of the public thinks that science can give them certainty and it can’t. So they were asking science for something that simply cannot provide, which is certainty. I mean, we’re still unsure about the law of gravity. We’re still trying to break the logjam. We just launch a satellite a couple of years ago to test our understanding of gravity. So I was really trying to unhook the popular debate for the average person, unhook it from this need for certainty, and instead just say, look, given what we know right now, balancing the risks of what our choices are to act or not act and the two basic possibilities, it’s true or it’s not true. Let’s compare possible scenarios and see what’s the worst that could happen if we mistakenly choose to act and we screw it up. And what’s the worst that could happen if we mistakenly choose not to act? And that was a bad decision. And comparing those for the people can make their own decision for themselves. And I came up with that grid and shared it with my the first time I put it in there, I had this realization. I was like, oh, my God, it’s so clear when you stick it, this little four box grid. But there was no way to express it to anybody unless I was sitting there in front of them. 

Note, whenever I try to talk about it, I always have to grab a napkin and draw a grid on it. So I couldn’t read it in a letter to the editor. I couldn’t talk about it much. Byronic. I’m doing a radio show, but it’s, you know, it’s really hard to describe and people get it’s a visual argument. 

Right on that point, I’d like to let on this. I know that you can get a link to the video through our website point of inquiry dot org. 

Yeah, and it’s with what really surprised me, T.J., is that it went so huge. So when my wife and I finally got high speed Internet and I could finally check out what the whole YouTube thing was about because I’d already been named TIME magazine’s Person of the Year. You were, too. By the way, you remember that cover. 

Yeah. But, you know, I’m I’m humble enough. I don’t. 

Well, I decided I might as well use this thing that they were talking about. So once I looked at YouTube, I realized, oh, my God, this is the medium for what I have to do. It’s low cost. I don’t have to invest anything. I can put my idea out there. It’s a visual medium and if it’s useful, then it will self propagate. And the response has been amazing because that simple little grit, because the video is 10 minutes of B at a whiteboard talking about global warming. I mean, yawn. Give me a break. How is that going to go anywhere? 

Well, but in the end, the real distinction is that you’re not talking about the evidence for global warming. You’re not saying here’s another reason why those skeptics or some people call them deniers. I have a question about that in a bit. But the point is, you’re not talking about evidence. You’re not. You’re, in fact, saying you don’t need certain knowledge in order to have reliable enough knowledge to act. 

Right. Which ironically, it creates a second chapter in the story because, yeah, I was making the point that you don’t need evidence. All you need is an acknowledgment that you might be wrong is I made the claim that if we use this grid, then hardline skeptics and panic activists can all agree on the same thing, because we can all agree that we might have a mistaken understanding of the physical world. And when it comes to our beliefs versus the physical world, the laws of physics are going to trump at every time. So it’s only in our pragmatic interest to assume that is to question that our beliefs may be wrong and try to get them closer to physical reality. 

I made the point in the video that you don’t need any evidence convincing to a lot of people, but within 24 hours it just exploded. Well, it exploded, but within three days it exploded. But within 24 hours, people poked a very huge hole in the argument that the argument is false, that I presented in that video. It has turned out you do have to talk about some evidence by Tasch that pretty quickly and put out a whole bunch of other videos totaling eight hours. But those never went viral. And that simple little grid, there’s something very powerful about it, because all these people who either were confused or didn’t care suddenly were forwarding it on to their friends and it was just them. It was amazing. There’s something something about that little grid. 

Greg, let’s get to the grid. But first, on this issue of evidence, the subtitle of your book is a rational response to the climate change debate. I consider myself a rationalist, a rational person. My gut says that the way to respond rationally to an issue, a controversial issue, is to argue the evidence. You know, to kind of bark people over the head with the truth of the of the facts on your side. This is Al Gore’s documentary. This is, you know, all of the other books on climate change that I’ve read. But you’re saying, yes, you need to talk a little about the evidence, but that’s not the main thing. The main thing is just for everyone to admit that regardless your take on the evidence, you could be wrong. 

Right. And in fact, you know, did you the books that you read and the facts you muster may be wrong because the other side has a bunch of facts and a bunch of smart people with PTSD and lots of experience and they can come right back at you. And if you have a page in climatology, you can sort through it. But the average Joe Schmo American who include me, we simply don’t have time to sort through it. And we are where the battle will be won or lost. 

And the way to sort through that is this risk management stuff. 

This hybrid, it’s essentially to say, look, the number one step is to admit that you might be wrong and you might have something to learn. That’s that’s probably the most key thing. And I didn’t really hit that in the first video. But that first video, people poked a hole in it. And then I spent months combing the web. I read literally tens of thousands of critical comments about my first argument. And then I addressed all of those in a ridiculously long eight hour series that addressed every single how about and you missed a spot. And yeah, but what if to my first video. And as a result of doing all that, I realized that really the main thing, we would all be better off if we could just get rid of this little part of our brain called confirmation bias. And confirmation bias is the well-established tendency for us to give weight, to pay attention to things that confirm what we want to believe and ignore the things that don’t. So with this pile of evidence, the reason that we’re in a deadlock in a popular debate is with Google at your fingertips, you can find evidence for any belief. You want you can find evidence for the geocentric theory that this that the sun goes around the earth. It’s out there. And the challenge is to not be seduced by your own brain to go looking for evidence for your side, finding it, and then therefore thinking that you have something close to the truth. So really, what the book turned into, I thought I was writing a book about climate change, but it turned out really to be a book about psychology and decision making, kind of critical thinking decision. Yeah. And the number one, I think the most important chapter in the whole book is on confirmation bias, is on learning to see in ourselves the tendency sometimes it’s called the. That van is always on the corner syndrome where you see a van every day on your on your way to work. Like, my God, that man is always on that corner. What they’re doing and what you miss. Is it all the times that the van is not on the corner. You don’t notice it. Right. So in your mind, you have a skewed score that confirms your belief. And all of us on both sides of the global warming debate are hooked into that. So. So the number one step that I am advocating in the book is for people to sort of become aware of that in their own brain, regardless where they are, regardless. And in fact, that’s what Chris Mooney storm world on global warming. And he wrote the New York Times bestseller, The Republican War on Science, the earliest published Unscientific America. He wrote, really the only big review I got in print in The New Scientist and is that he gave me the highest brazenly to my book. He said, I learned something from Craven’s book, a task I would have thought impossible, given my immersion in the topic and what he learned within the book. I require the reader before they go on. I require them to do a very difficult exercise, which is to write out what would it take you to see in order to change your belief about global warming. And that’s an exercise that even the most engaged of us haven’t really gone through. 

And I find that an interesting exercise on all sorts of other topics, not just global warming. How open minded are we to opposing views? 

Right. And if you if you’re constantly questioning yourself and say, well, I might be wrong, then you can get into paralysis, too, and say, look, all opinions are equally valid. And that’s pragmatically that’s not going to make your life any better. So really, what you need is, is that is a first step. And then you need to I suggest rather we could benefit from a structure from there. Keeping that in mind, how can we go about looking at the evidence that there is a void, our own confirmation bias of just paying attention to the evidence that we like and ignoring the evidence that we don’t like, and then use that to sort of get a basic calculation of the risks involved in whether we act or don’t act on climate change. 

And this assessment of risk management has nothing to do with certainty. It has to do with you kind of just wait various claims. You’ve put it all together and you you assess which direction will cause us most harm if it’s right. 

Right. Which direction would probably cause us most harm. Because it’s all about. It’s all about probabilities. I mean, the question is global warming to or not isn’t relevant anymore than the question. Am I going to get in an accident right now relevant to when you get in a car? You don’t ask that before and require certainty of that before you buckle your seat belt. You’ll wait till you’re certain you’re going to get into an accident. You just do a quick assessment of the risks of it. And what are the consequences if you do or if you don’t get an exit? Actually, the consequence of buckling my seat belt, not needing it is it’s a little bit of a hassle. The consequence of not fulfilling my seatbelt and needing it is extremely remote, but could be catastrophic. So you do that quick assessment decided to it in your interest unbuckles seat belt. And that’s essentially what I’m what I’m trying. The idea I’m trying to get across to the general populace that we should do is climate change and stop waiting for a certainty that science, frankly, will never, ever be able to provide. 

You say that, but some climate scientists say the weight of evidence is so, well, weighty that we should all get off her duffs and act. And you hear a lot of them say the kinds of things we should do is change our light bulbs or, you know, not use plastic bags at the grocery store, buy an electric or a hybrid car or something like that. But you don’t even go that far. Or maybe you go further. In a sense, you say stuff in your book, in in your larger proposal that crashes headlong into the mainstream. Environmentalists thinking that it appears obvious that you’re on the side of you say it doesn’t make a lot of sense. First, to personally act eco friendly in everyday decisions, because that’s not going to do the trick. That’s not gonna be enough. You say what people should do instead, instead of changing light bulbs and stuff is something bigger. 

Right? And that’s an issue. We should be careful here that that’s not the conclusion of the book. That’s I make proposals actually in the appendix of the book because the whole shtick of the book, the whole spiel was to try to get at people who are tired of the shouting match and tired of being told what to believe. And are probably a bit skeptical about doomsday scenarios because, you know, we’ve heard environmental doomsday scenarios our whole lives and we’re still here, right? It hasn’t happened. So there’s a natural and healthy skepticism to it. I’m trying to get to the people who have that. And in order to do that, I need to not come across as a greenie at all. So the whole book. I’m actually the main criticism I got from both sides. And I sent this out. I sent drafts out to all the big thinkers on both sides of the debate and asked for group critique. And the main thing I got from both sides was that I was too fair to the other side. You were getting it from both ends. Yeah. I mean, I was told that I was going way too easy on the skeptics. I was giving them way too much credibility. And the skeptics told me I was I was swallowing too much of what the alarmists were saying. But so but I do come to a conclusion. I come to a conclusion in the second to last chapter. And I only do it as a sort of sample problem on the boards all through the book. I’m giving very specific tools for the reader based on their own values and experiences, and their own sources of information can assemble their own decision grid and make a decision that seems like the best bet for them in their life. So the second to last chapter, I offer my conclusion simply I showing OK. Using these tools. How? And then the information I have. Here’s my conclusion. But the last chapter is actually titled Readers Conclusion. Some Assembly Required. And that’s just templates. And me reordering this, the steps for the people to go through. That said, my publishers and I both thought it would follow a little flat. If I lead the reader to a conclusion, they come up with this very hearty conclusion of their own. And then I give them no direction on what to do with it. So I did a concluded Appendix four that was specifically separate from the book. So it was nonhazardous. The book is not advocacy, but the appendix essentially says, OK, if you end up with the same conclusion. I do. Which is the best bet for the most conservative bet and the best bet. Due to overwhelming probabilities is for us to take massive action right now if we want to forestall the chance of disaster like civilization, disaster, civilization, ending disaster. And that’s that’s a really remote possibility. But it’s not as remote as it used to look. Thirty years ago, it was unimaginable 20 years ago. There’s a glimmer on the horizon. Ten years ago, it was a really remote possibility. Now it’s starting to look feasible because the scientists just looked more and more grim. So in the appendix, I do take off the hat neutrality with lots of qualifiers and say, look, here’s my assessment. Here’s what I want from my kids. And I got to know the whole reason I did this five year old, a four year old. And I say if we want to eliminate, be confident that we’ve eliminated the potential for civilization disruption. It is so late in the game and we have dallied so long and debated so long that nothing short of a full scale economic and an energy mobilization is going to do it. 

Like when the United States entered World War Two. 

And I go back and I the only reason I think it’s personally and this is again, this is not what people will get from my book, but the tools in my book when I use them, the tools. My book is designed to be the most rational method I can get, which means I trust that method fairly works fairly well. The result I get is so huge that. Yeah. The only reason I still have hope is because of what the United States did the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed and a year after it, that everyone the next day woke up with the same thought on their mind, which is what can I do instead of what’s going to cost me? They were asking, how can I help? 

So Greg, going green isn’t enough. We need much more massive action. And I find it interesting that what you started this all on YouTube and you say some of the massive action, a reader of your book, who’s led to the conclusion that you have on the matter, some of their massive action will include things like Twitter and Facebook and kind of social networking on this issue. 

Right. I, I wouldn’t have I think it’s too late in the game. I wouldn’t personally have hoped for us if it weren’t for two things. One, the precedent that the American people set in their economic whole scale mobilization after World War Two. If we mount that scale of effort now, I think we can do it. And we can we can make the transition with a minimum of disruption, a maximum competence and a minimum of cost. And the only way that’s going to happen, I think, is with modern communication. 

That’s your that’s your second reason for optimism. 

Yeah. My my second reason for optimism is that I think we can make it either takes a bombing. We’re not going to have a bombing quite by the time climate change bombs us and everyone wakes up to it. It’ll be decades too late. So we need to wake ourselves up. The only way I think that we can do that is with this this social epidemic. Malcolm Gladwell called a social epidemic or a viral idea that self-propagating. And my video gives me hope for that because I posted. Video and I gave on YouTube and I gave the word to probably about 100 people and it was my students. I didn’t even I was so exhausted, I didn’t even mail it out to friends and family and from those 100 students who put it on their MySpace pages and their Facebook pages. Twitter wasn’t really big back then, but they had other social networks from that. It went to seven point five million. And part of that, I think, is the very last part of the video. I looked in the camera, I say, look, here’s my best assessment. If you think I’m if you think I’m wrong, please tell me where so I can improve my thinking. And if you think I’m right, then forward this video onto other Jim Underdown. So the thing is that video went to the next person. And because that person got the same ask at the end of the video saying forwarded on to others, it went again and again and again. And that’s why I have hope is if we can get an idea to propagate like that, then we can get the wholesale change in the culture, which will allow us to have a wholesale change in policies on a fast enough timescale that we can then change our energy economy fast enough to forestall disaster. 

Greg, I share that optimism. But what happens when the deniers or more generously just call them the global warming skeptics? What happens when they use social networking just as effectively? 

Well, it’s it’s a marketplace of ideas, you know, and we’ll see who’s got the more effective argument. And unfortunately, that side tends to be more well-funded. So they can hire the people who have better communication skills. They can hire the marketers who actually know more about psychology than you or I do. And they know how to get people to change their mind. My book is not selling well, and that’s because I’m not a marketer. I didn’t find the idea that that propagates. I didn’t know how to hook into the lizard brain. I’m appealing to the frontal lobe. 

You’re appealing to arguments that your risk management process is trying to even obviate your I mean, on the one hand, you’re saying we don’t need to really rely on the evidence. We just need to rely on probabilities or likelihoods or that sort of stuff and allow that we could be wrong. On the other hand. You’re admitting that you need to have a compelling argument in a kind of skillful portrayal like the marketers have in order to get the message out. 

Yeah, I mean, what we really need and what we need is Richard Branson or George Soros or Warren Buffett or some guy with a lot of money who’s wants to make a mark on the world and say, look, write a blank check and we’re gonna start a Manhattan Project where we hire the best psychologists and admen and political scientists and historians. And we say, what’s it going to take to own you body and soul for the next twelve months? And we stick them somewhere in the desert and they work 24 hours a day to design the meme, the pitch. The thing that actually works as well as the marketing for SUV is which know SUV is against everyone’s interest, including the individual. 

But they sold like hotcakes because they were very specifically designed to hit that part of the brain, which doesn’t think and that’s that’s a way more powerful to convince people that way. More powerful argument and method for convincing people might. But I can’t do that. So I just do this, though, my analysis of appealing to rationality and it hasn’t worked so far, but well, hopefully people will find it. And the end of the book does say in the appendix, it does say, look, if you want to create action, it’s too late, I think, to change your light bulb or worry about your carbon footprint. Take all that energy you would normally put all the time and energy would normally put into biking to work or changing your light bulb or living lighter on the land or whatever and drive to work. Bill, change your light bulb. Take all that money and energy and instead use it to forward the message to other people, to change minds, to change minds. 

Because, look, if it’s you working diligently and really hard, you’ll create X amount of carbon footprint reduction. Right. If you take all of your energy and instead enlist 10 other people to do that, then you have ten times the impact. And if what you’re asking them to do is not reduce their carbon footprint, you’re saying to them, hey, lift 10 other people in the chain letter that may save our neck because in five deaths, that’s over a hundred thousand people that have been influenced because one person started it and said, hey, we need to look at this in terms of risk management. Pass it on to other people. 

Greg, you were talking about how the book wasn’t meeting your expectations as regards its sales. I should say I was telling you this off air. This is the best treatment of the topic that I’ve read. And I’ve read a lot of books on this. You know, both pro and con. Yours is smack down in the middle and says new stuff. So I’d like to let our listeners know that you can get a copy of the book. What’s the worst that could happen? A rational response to the climate change debate through our website point of inquiry dot org. 

And T.J., I might also mention, particularly for your listeners, it’s it’s really hard for me to express how proud I am of the book and how valuable I think it is. Without making it sound like a book pitch. Cause I’m a high school teacher, I plan to keep being a high school teacher. But this book says it’s about climate change. But really, there’s one chapter in it that addresses the science of climate change. 

It really is a book about critical thinking and how someone can make a decision about uncertain, complex topics when they have limited time. And that applies to the paranormal. That applies to intelligent design. That applies to global warming. Hell, that applies to should I move across country for that job? Should I go with mechanic or mechanic B if I’m new in town? It applies to everything. And I, I wish I have no idea how to do it. It’s, I think it’s perfect for like a humanity survey course is that a lot of liberal arts colleges have for their freshmen. It’s essentially how to approach difficult topics with limited time and no particular expertize in that field. 

This is for all the people who might kinda care about these issues, but not enough to be steeped in them because they have their work abay their nine to five, you know, jobs, their their lives. Right. This gives you I wouldn’t call it short cuts, but it gives you tools to get into topics and make decisions about topics without having to be experts in it, specifically design. 

Once you read the book, that’s all the investment. You have to do it. You have to do to make a decision, because it’s specifically designed that if you have very little time to research it, it’ll give you the best choice you can. If you have more time, it’ll give you a better choice. If you have lots of time, then you can be more confident in choice. But it’s specifically designed to be sort of one size fits all. Where to place the however much time you can or want to devote to any issue. 

All right, Greg, I like that you mentioned, you know, intelligent design, creationism. Other issues that this approach that you have. Well, it has implications, you know, for all kinds of other complex, fuzzy, controversial issues and not just the risk management approach. But your proposals in the appendix and elsewhere when you talk about using social networking and stuff to advance points of view. You’re a science teacher. Do you see this being widely adopted in the science education movement in in you know, when people talk about science education in that context. They mostly mean evolution versus creationism. 

It’s I write the essay because it’s gone the opposite direction. This book came about because of my conversations with my students over the last 10 years, because I’m very interested in the nature of science and how science is a set of thinking tools rather than a body of knowledge. And, you know, I started out spending the first week of physics and chemistry classes just talking about the nature of science. And the next year it was two weeks and the next year it was three weeks. And this book is essentially the on steroids version of what I do in the first part of my science classes, Jim Underdown, which is not content. 

It’s method. 

Yeah. And which is which is I was going to correct a little thing you said, being that I’m proposing social networking to advance a point of view. I don’t want to advance a point of view because that’s what everyone else is doing and everyone else is sick of it. I want to advance a way of thinking and then let people adopt their own point of view because people are pretty hostile to points of view that they don’t already share. So if you want to change from that point of view, giving them a different one often doesn’t bear much fruit, giving them a way to think. So that they can come to their own point of view. And if that new point of view happens to be closer to physical reality than the previous one, we all win. 

Okay, I get what you’re saying. But if I’m going to be just completely straight up about it, you do have a point of view. The book is not pushing it. The book is neutral in. In fact, you don’t even call skeptics of global warming, you know, denier lists like a lot of environmentalist types do. But you do you know, look at the evidence. The evidence for global warming persuaded you before you developed this risk management stuff and applied it to looking at the evidence in it. In fact, your concerns about global warming led you to think about different ways to approach the issue. Right. Among people who had these questions. So obviously, you would love if everyone would do the process right. And do the critical thinking stuff and then accept these brute truths about global warming. 

I know I wouldn’t say that because it’s not about accepting truth. Science can never science will never claim to say this is truth. Science says, look, here’s our best guess. There’s always uncertainty. We might be wrong. 


So reword what I said to be accepted, the likelihood to place the best bet, given the risks and uncertainties that we have, that the risk of not acting and having catastrophic climate change far outweighs the risk of acting foolishly and having catastrophic. Economic results. That’s my assessment based on the available evidence. Doesn’t mean I’m I’m right. And in fact, I hope I will. I really hope I’m wrong. And I do say a couple times you said that the evidence doesn’t matter. You don’t look at the evidence. But I want to emphasize, we do need to use evidence. What we shouldn’t do is look to evidence as certainty because every side has good evidence. 

Right. There are experts, you know, elected officials stand up, you know, in Congress and cite their scientists who when they say that global warming is the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people. 

Those people are tremendously powerful and they are playing to the public’s default view, which is we’ve got a pretty good life. We’ve gotten it in a certain way. So continuing in that certain way, we will continue the good life. So it’s really trying to get people to see it. That may not be physical. Reality is really a tough thing to do. So my point of view really is let’s change the way we think about it. Stop asking for certainty and instead ask, given the risks and uncertainties, what seems like the best bet to achieve our ends, which is safe, sustainable and secure future for us and our kids. 

Greg, so finishing up, although what you just said could be, you know, the finale of our conversation, persuasive, although you say you’re not trying to persuade. I just want to ask you if our listeners are you know, if they find themselves nodding in agreement, say you persuaded them and they go through your critical thinking system in your book, your risk management grid and all that, and they conclude that they have to respond to this threat of global warming. They’re not saying they know what will certainly happen, but, you know, all the language you just used. Right? Right. What should they do for you? It’s not changing your light bulbs. It’s not the list of proposals. Al Gore has in his documentary. It’s it’s less than. And also more than all of that. 

Right. And actually, that’s the other big flattering review I got was from Bill McKibben, who’s a longtime environmental author and activist. He said that my book trumps most people’s accounts of global warming because it identifies actions that really will make a difference. So what I think they should do. And again, it’s my opinion I want them to figure out for themselves. But my suggestion is the best bang for their buck is to forward the idea somehow. Now, if they can’t come up with their own way of doing it, take it. If every virus mutates, that makes it stronger. Take it and change it. To say in your own words, you can’t feel free to use my little grid and take it to your friends and your family and your colleagues in your e-mail list and make your own video and say, hey, look at this grid. 

Doesn’t this seem pretty clear that it’s more in our interests to bet this way than to bet this way? What do you think? And if you agree, send it onto 10 others. So I think that has the most potential for any energy anyone puts in is to take the basic idea of saying, let’s stop looking for certainty and start looking at bets and forward that idea. Because I really think that’s that’s our main hope at this point, is to put energy into spreading the idea. And the idea is not, oh, my God, we need to take action on climate change because we’ve been that’s been done. It’s not happening. It’s only happening at the normal rate of social change. And I don’t think we have time for the normal rate of social change because the climate is a nonlinear, chaotic system. And you know how queasy we all felt when the financial markets fell apart last year. A system that we trusted and we thought we knew how it worked. Suddenly, the floor fell out. The climate system is the same kind of system with feedback loops and amplifications, and we don’t want to feel that with the climate. So I think we need to move as fast and as aggressively as we can to get everyone on board with the idea of making conservative bets about an uncertain future. 

Greg Craven, thank you for joining me on Point of Inquiry. 

Thanks so much for having me, DJ Grothe. 

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Thank you for listening to this episode of Point of Inquiry to get involved with an online conversation about today’s show. Join us at point of inquiry dot org. Views expressed on this show aren’t necessarily the views of the Center for Inquiry, nor its affiliated organizations. Questions and comments on today’s show can be sent to feedback at point of inquiry dot org. 

Point of inquiry is produced by Thomas Donnelly and recorded from St. Louis, Missouri, Point of inquiries. Music is composed for us by Emmy Award winning Michael Quailing. Contributors to today’s show included Sarah Jordan and Debbie Goddard. I’m your host, DJ Grothe. 

DJ Grothe

D.J. Grothe is on the Board of Directors for the Institute for Science and Human Values, and is a speaker on various topics that touch on the intersection of education, science and belief. He was once the president of the James Randi Educational Foundation and was former Director of Outreach Programs for the Center for Inquiry and associate editor of Free Inquiry magazine. He previously hosted the weekly radio show and podcast Point of Inquiry, exploring the implications of the scientific outlook with leading thinkers.