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Managing Water Resources in the West Under Conditions of Climate Uncertainty: Proceedings of a Colloquium November 14–16, 1990 Scottsdale, Arizona
yond that, we need some indication of the evidence on which people can make their own risk calculation—make their own judgment on the probability of a specified magnitude of effect. I think we had begun to get at that yesterday.
We know that people are much more likely to act intelligently if they are provided with information, not only about the costs and benefits or what the impact might be, but also about what the feasibility is of their doing something in response. If they are presented, for example, with a course of action that they don't think is practicable or that isn't within their reach, they are less likely to perceive it accurately, let alone to act on it, than if they feel there is something they can pick up and do.
This morning we consider what sorts of actions people here, or people we can influence, could exercise. Of course, the kind of action we exercise depends upon the social setting in which we are placed—upon the organization or society. I'm reminded of this by a joke that's making the rounds in Moscow these days. It came out of discussions of the catastrophe at the Aral Sea. The formulation runs as follows: In a new Soviet society, when you're confronted with a looming catastrophe you turn to the market and let the market decide what's an effective course of action. In the United States, in a capitalistic society, when you're confronted with a catastrophe the attitude is, "Don't worry, the government will bail you out." So, one's perception of the kind of framework in which we are operating has a considerable influence on how accurately we may perceive the problems we are confronting. Thus, I would suggest that there's another consideration in this whole matter of viewing climate change from a global standpoint.
As many of you know, there has been going on recently through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) an analysis of the whole range of topics that we've been considering here—going far beyond water. The IPCC has now reported. (Bob Dickinson referred to some of the findings.) The IPCC's report was considered at the World Climate Conference in Geneva last month. There now have evolved several suggestions about steps that should be taken. The Western European nations are strong on moving to the acceptance in an international convention of limits on production of greenhouse gases in various forms. They are proposing a treaty that would be executed by the time of the United Nations (U.N.) Conference on Environment and Development scheduled to take place in Brazil in June 1992. The United States has been opposed to certain features of that proposed treaty on the grounds that they don't want to specify the maximum or minimum figures for limitation of effluents.