Climate action has been sporadic, and far too slow. Why? The obvious answer: distrust of the science. Yet, even in places where the scientific findings have been accepted, and even as skepticism is waning, the response remains sluggish. I suggest two main causes. First, current inequalities, within and between nations, generate a four-sided dilemma (or quadrilemma). Besides the impact on future generations, many nations and many people reasonably fear that their own futures will be devastated by the kinds of action proposed, unless serious efforts are made to protect and aid them – and they do not expect those efforts to be made. Second, the probabilistic character of the decision problem, coupled to our ignorance of the crucial probabilities (both now and in the foreseeable future), fosters the illusion that the safest course is not to modify the status quo.
The lecture will present the predicament, explain the two main causes of inaction, and offer some proposals for making progress. The best hope for a remedy would be to organize a world-wide venture in deliberative democracy, in which the quadrilemma was systematically confronted, and attempts were made to satisfy all constituencies. It is almost certain that any solution will not only have to revive democracy at the most fundamental level, and also mitigate the character of contemporary global capitalism.