The right null hypothesis

In the context of already evident rapid change in the climate, and the established high sensitivity of society to extreme weather, the question must be asked, whether it is right or prudent to take as the null hypothesis that damage is not increasing due to climate change rather than a Bayesian approach that damage should be increasing already. In the former case, it may be some time before ''significant'' deviations from past behavior can be discerned, which could lead to delays in taking precautionary action. In the latter case, recent observations are surely ''consistent with'' a new trend toward higher weather-related damage caused by climate change. In the author's opinion, scientists have a particular responsibility in advising lay stakeholders not to convey the impression that because the null hypothesis of no change cannot be defeated, therefore there is no change. It is surely better to counsel that severe change is possible, and may arrive quite soon. In effect, this approach is adopting the precautionary principle as advocated by Stern (2006). It is better to take mitigation measures that may not be necessary, than not to take them and find out later that they were necessary. The cost of being ''cautiously wrong'' is much lower than the cost of being ''optimistically wrong.''

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