Does the Deltacommission exaggerate?

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(Nederlandse versie hier)

 

In the Dutch media there is some noise that the Deltacommission consciously exaggerated the dangers of sea level rise.

 

Fear mongering? 

On one of the Dutch news channels it was claimed that the commission wants to scare the citizens to make them accept the huge infrastructure project. Did they engage in fear mongering? That depends on whether the danger is being exaggerated. Pointing out a danger is not by definition fear mongering.

 

The commission is very clear that they take as a starting point a “plausible upper bound” to sea level rise. They did not present this upper bound (on the basis of scientific input) as being the most likely (as was claimed by eg Hans von Storch according to a Dutch newspaper); that would indeed have been an unfair representation.

 

‘Delta dictator’??

The same newsflash also contained the charge that the communication advice to the commission suggests that a charismatic leader, a so called ‘Delta dictator’, should quickly put the plans in motion. I couldn’t find any information about this charge on either the commission’s or the communication firm’s websites. A lot of the internet buzz refers back to the website of the news channel instead.

 

Comparison with WMD???

The newsflash ended with a comparison with the situation in the US just before the Iraq war. The Bush government tried to gain public support for invading Iraq by charging that “the Iraqi dictator has weapons of mass destruction”, whereas the evidence for this claim was very weak. It stands in no comparison with the scientific foundation on which estimates of sea level rise are based. Even though the uncertainties regarding its precise rise and timing are large, the evidence that sea level will continue to rise is very strong indeed. This is a totally different cup of tea compared with the unfounded charge of WMD. A bad ending of a tendentious newsflash.

 

Risk

The discussion should really be about what risk we are willing to take. Is it enough to protect ourselves against the most plausible sea level rise (according to current wisdom), or should we take into account a “plausible upper bound”? Should our horizon end at 2100, or should we also take into account what may happen thereafter? Should we only adapt to what may happen, or should we also try to prevent the worst (and bad) case scenarios? These are normative questions that should be discussed, on the basis of scientific knowledge with her inherent uncertainties. The Deltacommission clearly exposes her view on these issues (with the notable exception of mitigation). Instead of accusing them of fear mongering, the critics could perhaps have said that they are willing to take a higher risk. Okay, let’s discuss that then.

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