Perspectives and Prospects
Edited by Elizabeth Fisher, Judith Jones and René von Schomberg
12. Climate change and the precautionary principle Jeroen van der Sluijs and Wim Turkenburg INTRODUCTION Scientiﬁc assessment of the risks of anthropogenic climate change has shown that there is a reasonable concern for the possibility of irreversible large-scale adverse eﬀects in the long term. Examples of such eﬀects are a severe reduction or shutdown of the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic current, accelerated species extinction and extreme sea level rise. But deep scientiﬁc uncertainty on causality, timing, probability and magnitude of such adverse eﬀects persists. This meets all the criteria of the deﬁnition of the Precautionary Principle (PP) proposed by von Schomberg (see chapter 2, Box 2.1, in this volume): Where, following an assessment of available scientiﬁc information, there are reasonable grounds for concern for the possibility of adverse eﬀects but scientiﬁc uncertainty persists, provisional risk management measures based on a broad cost-beneﬁt analysis whereby priority will be given to human health and the environment, necessary to ensure the chosen high level of protection in the Community and proportionate to this level of protection, may be adopted, pending further scientiﬁc information for a more comprehensive risk assessment, without having to wait until the reality and seriousness of those adverse eﬀects become fully apparent. In theory, the international community has acknowledged that the PP needs to be invoked here. In Article 3.3 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (United Nations FCCC, 1992) it is stated...
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