Tom Friedman on the 1% Doctrine

Climate change is about saving lives

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On the road to Copenhagen, we've passed through the dark woods of stolen e-mails, EPA regulations, leaked drafts and the Russian secret service. But are we any closer to building a national consensus on climate change? As the debate progresses, many pundits have dug in their trenches and toiled in the minutia of arcane policy or wonky academia. On Wednesday, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman steps out of the weeds and brings the focus back to the big picture: acting on climate change is about saving lives.

Addressing the need to act aggressively against global warming, Friedman rips a page out of the Dick Cheney terrorism playbook. The former VP famously said, "If there's a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping Al Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response." Cheney argued that this type of "low-probability, high-impact event" had to be dealt with aggressively. That, Friedman argues, is precisely the type of scenario we're dealing with in Copenhagen:

When I see a problem that has even a 1 percent probability of occurring and is "irreversible" and potentially "catastrophic," I buy insurance. That is what taking climate change seriously is all about.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.