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Monday, February 23, 2009

State of Fear

This recent article from the Washington Post raises some interesting questions about public perceptions of the risks of climate change. According to the article, people are migrating to new regions in response to climate disasters or in anticipation of future (sometimes distant future) risks. For example,

"Fier, 38, a computer security professional who used to work at NASA, said he thought hard about the risks of global climate change. He knew moving to a new country would be difficult but thought that the dangers of staying in the United States were worse. Several years ago, he drew up a list of countries and studied how they might fare over the next century. He examined their environmental policies, access to natural resources and whether they would be safe from conflict. He decided that New Zealand would offer a comparable quality of life, has an excellent environmental record and is isolated from global conflicts by large tracts of the Pacific Ocean. Its tropical, subtropical, temperate and arctic zones also offer a variety of "bioenvironments" as a hedge against the vagaries of climate change."

While forced displacement may be a common consequence of natural disasters, voluntary displacement in anticipation of some future risk would appear a bit alarmist. On the other hand, the recent bushfires in Victoria were a stark reminder that sometimes it is in fact better to be safe than sorry.

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