Climate Metaphor #2: Teenage Driver

A father is buying a used car for his teenaged son. He has found one at a reasonable price and the car is now sitting in his driveway but two reliable mechanics have told the father that the brakes on the car could fail at any time. His son asks to borrow the car to visit his friend in the next town.

It’s uncertain whether the brakes will fail on this particular night and, if they do, whether his son will have a fatal accident or come to rest harmlessly on someone’s lawn. But, because he loves his son and there is a risk of serious injury, of course he says “No, you can’t use the car until I fix the brakes.”

In regards to the climate crisis, some outcomes are certain while there are also uncertainties. For example, we know that sea levels will rise but it’s not definite how much or when. But, even if details of the predicted outcomes are uncertain, that should not be an excuse for failing to act. When the risks are severe, the decisions we make are more cautious and conservative.

Would you give your son the keys to the car?