Yukon First Nation opposes fracking until proven 100% safe, perpetuates poor understanding of the notion of certainty

“That essentially gave us the direction to oppose fracking within our traditional territory until it can be proven to be 100 per cent safe as relates to drinking water and other issues,” said Chief Joe Linklater.

So this is good news, overall, but here’s my gripe:

The 100% threshold has been a serious problem for the climate change movement. It’s a useful figure for rhetoric, but that means that we have to be 100% certain that humans are the cause, and 100% certain that warming will be a problem, and 100% certain that one alternative power source will provide 100% of our power needs.

It’s an unreachable standard. (More below the fold)Don’t get me wrong – I LIKE the idea of no fracking, and I do believe that it causes damage, and until the fossil fuel companies allow independent third parties to verify the safety (or lack thereof) of the process, history alone should make us avoid it.

But an unrealistic standard is an unrealistic standard, and that ALWAYS leaves it open to exploitation by people who are dishonest, in denial, or just plain ignorant.

NOTHING in science is 100%, which means that nothing in reality, as best we understand it, is 100%. I get the urge behind this kind of thinking, but it provides an easy out, and opens us up to arguments like, “what do you mean, sea level MAY rise by 6 feet? Come back when you KNOW something, and stop fear-mongering!”

I won’t demand 100% scientific literacy, but I’d like to have a higher standard than this.

P.S. It’s entirely possible that the actual text of the resolution doesn’t actually SAY “100%”, which would be great, but that still leaves the article I linked, and the general rhetoric around almost every contentious issue. That kind of thinking gets in the way.


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