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1.5 Concluding Thoughts

The precautionary principle specifies that scientific uncertainty is no excuse for inaction on an environmental problem. Instead of reacting to environmental problems after the fact, this principle suggests we must try to avoid environmental problems initially. Organizational forces aligned against the precautionary principle in the USA seek to create uncertainty. They use the trope of uncertainty to nurture doubt in the public's perceptions of scientific claims and delay calls for action (Cox 2013). Doubt strips people of the motivation to act and weakens our public and political will to solve problems. Awareness of how the created uncertainty is a communication strategy used to delay action helps us better understand why climate change is being debated long after a scientific consensus has emerged. Understanding precedes action. And action must occur even in the face of uncertainty. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), an alliance of more than 400,000 citizens and scientists, argue that scientific analysis—not political calculations or market-based concerns—should guide the formation of our government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices. They believe thoughtful action based on the best available science can help safeguard our future and the future of our planet. Now we must quickly work within and through organizations to adapt to global warming. I encourage each reader to use communication strategically to move the global debate and action agenda forward. You can help your organization be a leader in its sector. Many of the organizations you will read about in this book are already leading the way.

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