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Drawing Connections Between WWI and Climate Change

Imperial War Museum

While there is little doubt in the scientific community that the globe is getting warmer, many countries balk over climate regulations given the perceived cost of such action.

David Titley, the director of Penn State's Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk, believes there is connection between the climate battles of today and World War I, the world’s greatest danger a century ago.

“The governments really had a lot of warnings," he said. "There were people that said, ‘Guys, this is a really dangerous situation you’re getting us into,’ but in World War I ... it was almost these myopically small reasons why we couldn’t make the changes that led to a very disastrous outcome."

So I see a lesson learned as how can we look to the past to understand that even when looking forward it’s uncertain, we can do things to certainly lessen the chance of really, really bad outcomes. And that’s what I hope we can take away from World War I and the current climate challenge that we now have.”

Titley supports environmental regulation, saying that although he enjoys his freedoms, restrictions are sometimes appropriate.

“We have regulations on our financial industries," he said. "I could make a whole lot more money if I could front run the stock market, but it’s illegal … through virtually every facet of our society, we regulate things. We regulate things because we understand that for the common good there has to be that balance between what’s economically viable for society at large, ethics come into that … where on the needle is that balance. That is the kind of discussion that we’ll eventually need to have on climate.”

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