There is a concept in risk theory termed the “social amplification of risk”. Normally this takes the form of a minor risk being blown out of all proportion by public reaction to it.
One of the most perplexing problems in risk analysis is why some relatively minor risks or risk events, as assessed by technical experts, often elicit strong public concerns and result in substantial impacts upon society and economy. (Kasperson et al 1988)
The public response is mostly an overreaction to the risk, the actual “chance of harm” and the magnitude of the actual expected effects. Examples that have elicited huge public fear have included the BSE crisis, nuclear issues and the MMR vaccine (links to autism). As public fear spreads the risk is blown out of all proportion.
Collectively, climate activists, the IPCC and world governments, aided and abetted by climate scientists have done the opposite. They’ve taken a poorly quantified risk that is based on imperfect models and uncertain science and created a systematic and deliberate attempt at amplification.
As aptly described in Wikipedia, the social amplification of risk is damaging because it causes ripple effects (bold mine):
These ripple effects caused by the amplification of risk include enduring mental perceptions, impacts on business sales, and change in residential property values, changes in training and education, or social disorder. These secondary changes are perceived and reacted to by individuals and groups resulting in third-order impacts. As each higher-order impacts are reacted to, they may ripple to other parties and locations. Traditional risk analyses neglect these ripple effect impacts and thus greatly underestimate the adverse effects from certain risk events.
Let me see – the ‘low carbon economy’, green jobs (for the boys), oh and a whole generation of green-washed students, who can’t think for themselves.
IPCC assessments turned this on its head by neglecting a traditional risk approach and creating ripple effect impacts trying to get the social amplification they desired. As Dr Stephen Schneider famously said:
…we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, means getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. (Source)
This worked for a while but ecoactivists bemoaned that the public just doesn’t care enough. As I said previously I think they are just too sensible.