Although Limerick admits the wisdom of employing the precautionary principle, by which one eschews actions that might bring unfortunate or unwanted results, she reminds us that scientific research will never relieve citizens of the burden of making difficult decisions without possessing all pertinent information. How very true, although politicians at national, state, and some local levels appear determined to relieve citizens of making any decisions at all about O&G development.
When it comes to public health, experts speak in terms of probabilities of risk, estimating the probability of something happening, while individuals may take potential risks on a much more personal level. Limerick rightly points out the prevalence of 'confirmation bias'--the tendency to incorporate only data that confirms what one already believes--as Simon and Garfunkel said, to see what you want to see and discard all the rest. This is truly an easy trap to fall into. (Here is where I must point out that Limerick has a remarkable tendency to adopt optimistic O&G-industry assurances that they will do better despite continual evidence to the contrary. Projection?) And she urges caution on those who make predictions, such as from a mere decade ago, when the US was in a position of energy dependence with a declining rate of production for both gas and oil; my, how things have changed. However, one thing hasn't changed, and that is this country's morbid and dire dependence on gas and oil, a dependence that is only deepening here and spreading with hurricane force around the world.
Limerick addresses all of the factors listed above. But there is a larger factor that neither she nor FrackingSENSE speakers choose to question. What effect will this new reliance on natural gas have on climate change? As Bill McKibben says, when the low-hanging hydrocarbon fruit began to decline, we could have taken that as a sign to begin switching our energy focus to sun, wind, thermal--clean and renewable sources of power. Instead, we turned our attentions to ever-more-remote and difficult-to-access sources of the same old hydrocarbons as we tear the tops off mountains, plumb ever-deeper and more-frigid waters, destroy subsurface geology, and scrape away arboreal forests for what lies beneath.
How about the probability of catastrophic climate change if we continue chasing and burning hydrocarbons? That is a probability that some would say is irrevocably personal.