What’s the Worst That Could Happen?: A Rational Response to the Climate Change Debate

This lively, jaunty, yet ultimately serious-as-cancer little book about global climate change strikes me as evidence that the quintessential American spirit of the Founding Fathers and the Greatest Generation is alive and well. A Jeffersonian exercise in rational public discourse, appealing to the reasoned, good-hearted wisdom of an educated, well-intentioned citizenry, Greg Craven’s book reminds me of the famous Norman Rockwell painting from the Four Freedoms series, Freedom of Speech. An earnest fellow in a crowd of his anxious peers gets up to say his honest piece — and we all benefit. Craven, a high school science teacher, came to prominence just a couple of years ago with a viral Internet video laying out a logical methodology for cutting through all the controversy surrounding the topic of global warming. Craven’s brainstorm was to make a lateral jump away from undecidable “right vs. wrong” arguments into the realm of risk management and quasi-journalistic vetting of sources. By applying simple principles of reasoning, he affirmed, one could pick the most beneficial future course of action for oneself, humanity, and the planet without taking sides. The issue was no longer truth but merely “placing the best bet.” The first half of this ensuing book is a lucid examination of the tools necessary for making a rational examination of the facts. The second portion examines contentions and sources on both side of the debate. And a coda lays out Craven’s own personal application of his strategy, followed by an invitation and template for the reader to do likewise. Throughout, Craven is modest, funny, inventive, and sincere: the ideal teacher. His breezy yet dogged pursuit of a compassionate, utilitarian plan of action in the light of uncertainty yields convincing and inspiring fruit.