Precautionary Principle as Deus ex machina

Andrew Bolt picked up on one of the emails from Climategate 2 that gives a fascinating insight into the collusion between academia and the WWF in the manufacturing of environmental scares.

It also shows the role of the precautionary principle as a “deus ex machina”, a device of dubious merit for solving tricky problems in a plot.

Step 1. At 12:21 13/09/99 -0400, Andrew Markham, director of World Wildlife Fund’s Climate Change Campaign, writes to Mike Hulme at UAE:

>Meanwhile, Hurricane Floyd seems to be heading for Florida. >WWF offices are keen that we have something to say on this.

Step 2: Mike says there is no evidentiary link between Hurricanes and AGW, only theory. Suggests a number of scientists with “precautionary sense” including:

Barrie Pittock at CSIRO is always good for some precautionary sense, and/or Kevin Hennessy from the same group.

Step 3: Two days later the WWF report from Andrew Markham appears.

For Release: Sep 15, 1999
Adam Markham

Growing evidence suggests that global warming may be a factor in the formation of hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean – a prospect that makes it likely that super storms like Hurricane Floyd will occur with increasing frequency in the future.

Interesting how the precautionary principle is used to justify an environmental scare in full knowledge that there is no evidence to support it. The main criticism of the principle is well summarized (from wikipedia) in Sancho vs. DOE, by Helen Gillmor, Senior District Judge, dismissing a lawsuit which included a worry that the LHC could cause “destruction of the earth” by a black hole:

Injury in fact requires some “credible threat of harm.” Cent. Delta Water Agency v. United States, 306 F.3d 938, 950 (9th Cir. 2002). At most, Wagner has alleged that experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (the “Collider”) have “potential adverse consequences.” Speculative fear of future harm does not constitute an injury in fact sufficient to confer standing. Mayfield, 599 F.3d at 970.


0 thoughts on “Precautionary Principle as Deus ex machina

  1. ” Speculative fear of future harm does not constitute an injury in fact sufficient to confer standing”  sounds to me like something the anti-nuclear activists need to learn in court.

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