Climate Science Glossary

Term Lookup

Enter a term in the search box to find its definition.

Settings

Use the controls in the far right panel to increase or decrease the number of terms automatically displayed (or to completely turn that feature off).

Term Lookup

Settings


All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

Home Arguments Software Resources Comments The Consensus Project Translations About Donate

Twitter Facebook YouTube Pinterest MeWe

RSS Posts RSS Comments Email Subscribe


Climate's changed before
It's the sun
It's not bad
There is no consensus
It's cooling
Models are unreliable
Temp record is unreliable
Animals and plants can adapt
It hasn't warmed since 1998
Antarctica is gaining ice
View All Arguments...



Username
Password
New? Register here
Forgot your password?

Latest Posts

Archives

Why I care about climate change

Posted on 3 August 2010 by John Cook

There was a recent comment posted on Skeptical Science that questioned my motives, accused me of being politically leftist and wondered where my funding came from. The comment broke several rules in our Comments Policy so was deleted. However, I emailed the commenter, and answered all his questions. Through subsequent discussion, I think we came to understand each other a little better. So while I always try to keep the discussion focussed on science, I'm going to make a brief exception here and share my own personal reasons why I spend so much time reading and writing about climate science. I will note in advance that my motives are personal ones - I'm sure many of you come at this from completely different directions. This is just for the sake of anyone wondering what drives Skeptical Science.

Let me first say what doesn't drive Skeptical Science. For starters, it's not for this reason:

Ironically as I worked on this post approaching 1am, my wife woke up and came into the room, wondering what I was doing still up.

Secondly, it's not about money. There's no organisation or group sending me money. The sum of Skeptical Science's funding is a couple of Paypal donations per week. So I can assure you financial reward or even earning a basic livelihood is not a motivating factor. On the contrary, Skeptical Science comes at a personal financial cost as every hour spent on climate is an hour less to spend on paid work (flexibility of work hours is the blessing and curse of the self-employed). The realities of providing an income to support my family puts some limit on the time I can spend on Skeptical Science, but I always make some time.

It's not about politics. I'm not affiliated with any group or organisation, nor am I a member of a political party. I don't hold any particular political ideology (I'd categorise myself as a swing voter, voting both sides in the last two elections). I've never actually considered myself an environmentalist. I have to confess I don't send sleepless nights fretting about the plight of the spotted owl. I do think we should look after our environment like any concerned citizen but I just don't have a fire in the belly about it.

So what does give me that fire in the belly? I care about climate change for two reasons. One reason is my ten year old daughter, Gaby. She's the fiery kind of personality that never lets me get away with anything. So I have no trouble visualising a conversation we might have 50 years down the track (if I make it that far). At that point, surveying the rising sea levels, collapsed ice sheets, disappearing glaciers, increased drought, etc, I imagine her asking, "what the hell was your generation thinking? All your climate experts told you what was going on, why didn't your generation act?!" At the least, I want to be able to look her in the eye when she asks that question and say I did my best to communicate the scientific reality to people.

The second reason is my faith. I'm a Christian and find myself strongly challenged by passages in the Bible like Amos 5 and Matthew 25. I believe in a God who has a heart for the poor and expects Christians to feel the same way. And as I read the peer-reviewed science, I see more and more evidence that the poorest, most vulnerable countries will be (and currently are) those hardest hit by global warming. Drought will devastate low-latitude countries. Rising sea levels will create havoc on low lying countries like Bangladesh.

Extreme weather events are happening now. Thousands died in record heat waves in Pakistan and India in recent months. Over a thousand died in floods in Pakistan this week. I know its difficult to blame specific extreme weather events on climate change. But as the NOAA's Deke Arndt puts it, "Climate trains the boxer but weather throws the punches". We're training our climate to throw harder and harder punches at these defenceless countries. The irony is the countries hit hardest are those least equipped to adapt.

So that's why I care about climate change. I care about the world my daughter grows up in. I care about the same things that the God I believe in cares about - the plight of the poor and vulnerable. To me, personally, it's not an environmental issue - it's a social justice issue. It's about how climate change affects people. I'm not explaining this because I expect anyone to share my motivations - my faith and my situation are my own. But hopefully for those curious, you understand more clearly the driving force behind Skeptical Science.

1 0

Printable Version  |  Link to this page

Comments

Prev  1  2  3  4  Next

Comments 101 to 150 out of 152:

  1. RSVP @ 88 Heh, you're just like my beloved wife with her desire to rid the world of lexicon abuse :) I used the word Atheist with a capital simply because I see disbelief in God as just as valid a belief system (and just as unprovable) as all the other religions that get to use a capital letter. Pardon if I caused any offense the english language, as an engineer it is hardly my strongpoint!
    0 0
  2. Wow! A polite discussion about religion and philosophy. So here is my two-pennies worth of why it all matters. And boy, does it matter. Firstly religious beliefs. I would call myself an Agnostic, but not just in the narrower Christian sense. Rather I feel that while there may well be a supernatural aspect to existance, by its very nature it stands outside the physical Universe that we can explore through Science. So I feel the more strident forms of Atheism are wrong when they assert the definite non-existance of a supernatural. All that can be said is that there is no evidence for such extra domains. However, just as you can't use the principles of 2 Dimensional Geometry to prove or disprove the existance of 3 Dimensions, so all physical enquiry can not prove the non-existance of other domains. It can simply state that they see no evidence for them, but we wouldn't expect to see such evidence. Thus belief is a personal choice to think something. Those who think so call that Faith. Others who do not, do not. For myself all I can see is I dunno. Not knowable. Perhaps one religion is actually correct, perhaps another. May be it is a current religion. Or one that died out millenia ago. Perhaps we haven't discovered/invented the true religion yet; that may be awaiting us in the distant future. Perhaps all religions are true in some way; that might be fun, a universe were Yahweh, Thor the Thunderer, Uhuru Mazda and Aphrodite all exist (wait a minute, we already have that, its called Fantacy Role Playing Games). Or there may be no other domains, no higher principle, no Gods. All these speculations to me are moot. The question is simply not answerable. Thus Agnostic. Maybe. But Atheist in any day to day sense since I can't answer the question 'Maybe?' That does not mean however that there is not a powerful source of wonder and awe accessable to us right here in our physical Universe. The Numinous if you will. William Blake perhaps said it best: 'To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour.' For quite simply we are all Witnesses to the Universe . While we spend so much of our lives trying to find meaning for ourselves, trying perhaps to answer the question 'Whats my part?', we often loose sight of the grandeur of a different perspective ; 'Forget what you part is, look at what you are a part of' Our sense of connectedness to the Universe, much of it revealed by Science is a source of awe inspiring richness right here in this life. The very atoms of my body have been dinosaurs and comets, magma flows and mastodons. I am made from the Birth of Time and the Death of Stars. And in my genes is an ancestry back to the dawn of time. Every human on the planet is part of my family (although somewhat removed). Albert Einstein, Adolph Hitler, Gilgamesh, Utzi the snowman, Lucy the Austrolopithicus, Gorillas, fossil trilobytes, phytoplankton in the Southern Ocean. They are all relatives of mine. And our societies are descended from all the civilisations that have gone before us, all the people. The great names we remember and all the nameless billions who simply went before us. All the accomplishments, wonders and horrors that built our civilisation. And in a profound sense, we give meaning to their existance because we continue and know that they existed. We 'keep' them, we are The Keepers of the Dead. And so too we hope our descendents will also 'keep' us after we are gone. How much more meaning do you want in life? And so to motives for arguing for change on AGW Over the last 6 months I have come to realise that the threat of AGW unmet, combined with the looming water shortage crisis, declining soil quality, depleted marine environments, and a rising population as food supply doesn't keep pace means that the threat of major famine in several decades is now a major risk. Billion person famines unlike anything seen before. AGW is simply a compounding factor in this initially although later in the century it becomes more dominant. And large scale famine will bring social upheaval and wide scale civil disorder. The risk of major social collapse later this century is now real. Not certain but a significant possibility. And should a Nuclear exchange between any major powers under great stress from famine, water shortages, climate change and civil upheaval occur, everything will be that much worse. The actual collapse of civilisation by the end of the century now seems a real possibility. And in a world grown much vastly harsher due to climate change, perhaps even descending into something like the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum , a collapsed human civilisation could all to easily descend into an almost stone age world again. Human intelligence and ingenuity alone may not be enough to support our descendents in this harsh world if they have lost the knowledge and skills we currently take for granted. So to add another, broader perspective, reason for fighting to prevent climate change to Johns powerful personal one of concern for our children, what of our duty to simply preserve civilisation itself. Will we be the generation to fail to preserve it, to Keep it? I believe the 21st Century is humanities great Crisis of Survival. Arguing that we should risk such a terrible outcome just to preserve the mere frippery of the Consumer Society seems outrageous.
    0 0
  3. If we're having religious disclosures, here's mine (sincerely, I'm sort-of sorry if you're offended by this) : I'm what I would describe an extreme pantheist in that I believe that there are as many Gods as there are are particles in the universe, or possible combinations thereof. I vehemently reject the mainstream monotheisms, as I believe that they are a means of social control disguised as a belief system, although I also beleive they started as sincere social movements that were corrupted by politics. The gnostic versions of the mainstream monothesisms are interesting, but they're not for me™. Similarly, I'll reject a lot of the New Age crap that's around. If you engage me in a discussion of my religious beliefs, I will eventually start to talk about Discordianism, which I find to be a useful perspective from time to time. Discordianism is either a complicated joke disguised as a religion, or a religion disguised as a complicated joke. What's does this have to do with climate change? Well, speaking as God (strictly speaking, one of them: see above), I a strong attachment to a significant part of the infrastructure underpinning civilisation. As a scientist of the human sciences, with some background in human behaviour and complexity, as well as a failed attempt at a career in ecology, I can see that humans have the potential to overcome the ecological limitations that have caused most other species that have existed on Earth to become extinct. As well as my personal attachment, I'd like to see us overcome our hard evolutionary limitations, as kind of a collective intellectual exercise. Is there anyone else here with as convoluted a rationale for being interested in this topic as this?
    0 0
  4. Hey kdkd, Perhaps you may wish to call yourself an "infinite pantheist" rather than an extreme one. Extremism is getting a lot of bad press these days :)
    0 0
  5. macoles: actually as a lapsed discordian I embrace extremism :)
    0 0
  6. kdkd at 18:18 PM on 5 August, 2010: "I'm sort-of sorry if you're offended by this". I'm not, why should I? ;-) "Is there anyone else here with as convoluted a rationale for being interested in this topic as this?" I always like "Why are you here?" threads, because it can be very interesting to learn what brings people together. So, in short: yes, there is.
    0 0
  7. #97 kdkd Thanks for that. Re reading my post about the UK it sounds horribly arrogant (well I am a limey/pommy). Apologies. The political landscape you describe of Australia sounds remarkably similar to the UK - except you have the greens where we have the Liberal Democrats. I think I'll emigrate to Australia... We get a lot of news in the UK about extreme weather events in Australia (droughts, floods, wildfires, sandstorms). Are these acting as a driver for action on carbon reduction? You must have a strong denier community too - otherwise Monckton would never have visited. But there are so many excellent communicators in Australia - Tony Jones magnificent debunking of Martin Durkin (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=goDsc9IaSQ8) Potholer54 (http://www.youtube.com/user/potholer54) and of course this wonderful site. Is there a trend away from denial in Australia?
    0 0
    Response: "Is there a trend away from denial in Australia?"

    It's difficult when the leader of the opposition, who is a few marginal seats away from becoming leader of our country in a few weeks, states that "climate change is absolute crap". A few months ago, he urged primary school students to be skeptical about the human influence on climate change because it was warmer ''at the time of Julius Caesar and Jesus of Nazareth''.
  8. the leader of the opposition, who is a few marginal seats away from becoming leader of our country in a few weeks, states that "climate change is absolute crap" I am speechless. But then we have Nigel Lawson, UKIP and Monckton, over half of the Conservative party... I often think what a backlash would look like. Will it be driven by extreme weather events? The recent flooding in Pakistan is an interesting example. OK - I keep hearing that you can't attribute a single event to climate change, but I wonder if that is a little like saying you can't attribute a single cancer cell to smoking. Globally this year (so far) there has been unprecedented flooding in Southern France, Poland, Brazil, China, Tennessee and Arkansas. Here in the UK flood risks have increased so significantly that insurers are saying that some parts of the country will become uninsurable. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/jul/28/house-insurance-premiums-flooding). The backlash against smoking happened slowly - but has ended in bans and lawsuits for compensation. Will it be the same with climate change?
    0 0
  9. Hi John, thanks for that bit of background. As the ATE advert says "To communicate is the beginning of understanding". About a year ago I started debating on Australian (Family First) Senator Steve Fielding's blog. Steve is a committed Christian but is also a sceptic. Another committed Christian and supporter of The (significant human-made global climate change) Hypothesis, Phil (AKA Stormboy - http://bloodwoodtree.org/category/climate-change) and I had numerous exchanges of opinion on climate change. I approach this subject from the other side of the debate, suspicious of the real motivations of the politicians in driving what I see as a confidence trick. After months of debate neither of us changed our opinions on the issue. Only time will tell whether or not the scientific speculation about our use of fossil fuels is having any significant impact upon global climates or whether such impacts are beneficial or detrimental to the most important form of life on the planet, humans. Best regards, Pete Ridley
    0 0
  10. John Cook, As I suspected your really CARE. While I have no problem with that, you have bought into the idea that mankind is causing Global Warming and therefore mankind should be able to mitigate it. The mitigation idea fails on at least two levels. First, the warming is more beneficial than a cooling trend would be and you will never persuade a majority that the contrary is true. Second, you believe that the main factor driving Global Warming is the rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere brought about by industrialisation and rising human populations. Even if this controversial hypothesis is correct you will not be able to persuade Joe Sixpack to give up his "Redneck Cadillac" or his HVAC system. It gets worse. Joe Sixpack is no longer your main problem. Vidya Patel (India) and J.K. Chang (China) want SUVs and electricity (mostly from coal powered plants). They will get what they want no matter how loudly you complain.
    0 0
    Response: We'll have to agree to disagree on your two key points:

    "warming is more beneficial than a cooling trend would be"

    The full body of peer-reviewed research indicates the negatives far outweigh the positives, particularly for the poor and vulnerable countries least equipped to adapt.

    "you believe that the main factor driving Global Warming is the rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere brought about by industrialisation and rising human populations"

    I wouldn't characterise it as 'belief', this is not a matter of faith. I'm convinced by the multiple lines of empirical evidence. That rising CO2 levels is the main factor is directly measured by satellites and surface measurements that find CO2 is trapping heat and the amount of heat trapped (in other words, the radiative forcing) is greater than any other radiative forcing. This is confirmed by a number of independent human fingerprints on climate change.
  11. gc #111 "It gets worse. Joe Sixpack is no longer your main problem. Vidya Patel (India) and J.K. Chang (China) want SUVs and electricity (mostly from coal powered plants). They will get what they want no matter how loudly you complain." This circular argument is self-defeating. Also in terms of the Chinese and Indian situation, you're pretty wide off the mark, they (especially China) are taking the development of a renewalble energy economy pretty seriously. On the other hand the Americans do seem to be taking the blinkerd approach you're advocating, at least at the Federal level. This isn't a problem for individuals, substantial differences can only be made by treating it as a collective problem.
    0 0
  12. kdkd (#112) I was not advocating an approach to energy policy as this web site is not into "solutions". My intent was to point out how difficult it is to change energy policies in the countries that are having the greatest impact on carbon emissions.
    0 0
  13. Gallopingcamel, I mainly agree with your comments (#111) but suggest that mitigation is not about controlling global climate changes but about living with the impacts of them, wherever it might occur and whatever might be the cause. This is something that humans have done since the beginning. I anticipate many global benefits from a few degrees of global warming and regard the warnings of climate catastrophe as a consequence of our use of fossil fuels to be nothing more than propaganda from political and environmental organisations like the UN, Greenpeace and WWF. John says of his acceptance of The (significant hiuman-made global climate change) Hypothesis that he “ .. wouldn't characterise it as 'belief', this is not a matter of faith ..” but he is no more an expert in this subject than you or I or any others subscribing to his blog. It is worthwhile looking at what Professor Hans von Storch, of the University of Hamburg’s Meteorological Institute, a scientist with real expertise in the subject has to say about it (Note 1). Please see my comment today on the “Confidence in climate forecasts” thread. I do not believe that the Asian countries mentioned support The Hypothesis. It seems to me that their efforts on reducing the emissions of pollutants from their coal-fired electricity generation stations (is that one a month or one a week that the Chinese are installing?) is nothing to do with reducing emissions of that essential life-supporting substance CO2. The objective is to reduce to acceptable levels the real pollutants listed by The Union of Concerned Scientists (Note 2). These are (annual figure for a typical power station) - particles (500 tons), CO (700 tons), SO2 (10k tons), NOx (10k tons), VOCs (200 tons), Hg (170 pounds), As (200 pounds), Pb (10 pouinds), Cd, etc. Excluding the CO2 that the UCS includes in its list, the rest do need to (and can) be reduced to reasonable levels using the latest “clean coal” technology, as the Chinese are doing. Interest in the development of alternatives, including renewables, is for economic reasons, not as a means of global climate control. NOTES: 1) see http://coast.gkss.de/staff/storch/pdf/BadHonnef_0805-adaptation.pdf 2) see http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/coalvswind/c02c.html Best regards, Pete Ridley
    0 0
  14. Pete Ridley wrote : "I anticipate many global benefits from a few degrees of global warming and regard the warnings of climate catastrophe as a consequence of our use of fossil fuels to be nothing more than propaganda from political and environmental organisations like the UN, Greenpeace and WWF." Can you list those 'global benefits' and give the scientific backing for them ? Could you also show the evidence that reveals that 'propaganda' ? Pete Ridley also wrote : "John says of his acceptance of The (significant hiuman-made global climate change) Hypothesis that he “ .. wouldn't characterise it as 'belief', this is not a matter of faith ..” but he is no more an expert in this subject than you or I or any others subscribing to his blog. It is worthwhile looking at what Professor Hans von Storch, of the University of Hamburg’s Meteorological Institute, a scientist with real expertise in the subject has to say about it (Note 1)." From your link : In order to avoid misunderstanding, I am declaring already now: I am convinced that humankind can change climate, and I am equally convinced that humankind is presently changing climate. So, von Storch agrees with John's acceptance of AGW. I still find it very odd the way you write about AGW as "The (significant hiuman-made global climate change) Hypothesis" but think you will find that you are the only one who believes in such a strange, convoluted term which obviously helps you to accept whatever beliefs you have made up for yourself about climate and man's influence on it.
    0 0
  15. Pete Ridley at 05:54 AM on 8 August, 2010 Your propagandist approach to this isn't that interesting ("The Hypothesis" indeed!), and it might help you to take a more balanced approach if you would read the von Storch article you recommend. von Storch certainly doesn't consider "significant human-made global climate change" a "hypothesis", and no one who is in any way informed on this subject would do so (climate scientist, scientist, or otherwise informed individual): here's von Storch quoting from page 10 and 11 of the document you provide a link to:
    "…anthropogenic climate change is ongoing now; it can not be stopped; all what we can do is to limit climate change. The foreseeable future will hardly see any reduction of global emissions – but merely reductions of global emission growth.5 If we continue with business-as-usual and if no deus-ex-machina technological fit surprisingly emerges, we may well end up with a tripling or maybe even quadrupling of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at the end of the current century. Such levels will have severe implications. Making serious attempts to reduce emissions, we may be able to limit the increase in the greenhouse gas concentrations to a doubling of pre-industrial levels.6 “Doubling” is to be considered an achievement; a successful limitation. But also a doubling will have serious implications. Therefore we have to consider adaptation to climate change, not instead of, but parallel to mitigation of climate change. The goal is to limit the accumulation of greenhouse gases to “only” a doubling (or any other achievable significant reduction) and to prepare societies and ecosystems to adapt to unavoidable future changes."
    We have to be rather more rational about the realities of mitigation and adaption. There's no question that we will take steps to mitigate the problem (as von Storch says) and of course there's no question that we will be forced to take adaption responses to the effects that will develop from anthropogenic global warming throughout the current century (and beyond no doubt) which we will be unable to mitigate against. Mitigation is always preferable since it allows us to take a degree of control of future events and will minimize the possibilities of the potentially dramatic consequences that lie on the "nasty" side of the uncertainties inherent in any projection that is only bounded by ranges of probabilities.
    0 0
  16. Jmurphy, ref. comment #115 (and Chris, comment 116), regarding vonStorch, I won’t repeat here what I’ve already said on the “Confidence in climate forecasts” thread so if you wish to pursue that one I look forward to further discussion on that thread. On the mater of AGW v The (significant human-made global climate change) Hypothesis, I thought that I’d already adequately explained that but just for you I’ll repeat what I think I said. Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is in my opinion misleading. I believe that most sceptics accept that humans cause some warming of the globe but do not see convincing evidence that the effect is significant as far as changing global climates are concerned. I didn’t realise that I needed your approval of particular terminology before using it, mistakenly thinking that the blog administrator was the person who had to be satisfied about comment contents. Best regards, Pete Ridley
    0 0
  17. Pete Ridley @ 114 & 117, gallopingcamel @ 111 Since this a post on both belief and climate change, I suppose your comments do fall within the topic. However if this was a post on science and climate change you would need to bring a whole lot more science. On the subject of beliefs and people's reluctance to let go of them: "You can lead a mule to knowledge, but you can't make it think"
    0 0
  18. macoles (#118), This thread was about John's rationale for "Caring About Climate Change". While my rationale is quite different I often agree with John when it comes to mitigation. For example, I reject the unscientific position of Lisa Jackson at the EPA who claims that CO2 is a pollutant. Nonetheless, I am in favor of reducing CO2 emissions drastically. One can hardly disagree with the observation that the most populous nations are playing "catch up" with the USA and Europe. One of the consequences is rapidly rising CO2 emissions. Von Storch is a realist when he points out that the CO2 concentrations are going to rise for the foreseeable future. Even if the developed world were prepared to commit economic suicide by abandoning its transportation and energy assets, how likely is it that China and India would change their plans?
    0 0
  19. Further to gallopcamel's remarks, here's what I find to be a pretty cogent summary of where we stand w/regard to the upcoming size of our C02 bulge, by the head of the Centre for European Policy Studies: Coal: The cheap, dirty and direct route to irreversible climate change The overall message is pretty familiar. Coal is very inexpensive, the market fails to deal w/the commons issues arising from coal combustion, when law at the national level cannot address the problem it's quite impossible to deal with it across borders. Gros integrates these things with where we stand today.
    0 0
  20. gallopingcamel wrote : "For example, I reject the unscientific position of Lisa Jackson at the EPA who claims that CO2 is a pollutant." Come on : to be more accurate, you should write : "I reject what I believe to be the unscientific position of Lisa Jackson and the EPA who have put forward a very clear case that CO2 is a pollutant." This is because you reject the findings of EPA authors and contributors Benjamin DeAngelo, Jason Samenow, Jeremy Martinich, Doug Grano, Dina Kruger, Marcus Sarofim, Lesley Jantarasami, William Perkins, Michael Kolian, Melissa Weitz, Leif Hockstad, William Irving, Lisa Hanle, Darrell Winner, David Chalmers, Brian Cook, Chris Weaver, Susan Julius, Brooke Hemming, Sarah Garman, Rona Birnbaum, Paul Argyropoulos, Al McGartland, Alan Carlin, John Davidson, Tim Benner, Carol Holmes, John Hannon, Jim Ketcham-Colwill, Andy Miller, and Pamela Williams. And you reject the findings of Federal expert reviewers Virginia Burkett, USGS; Phil DeCola; NASA; William Emanuel, NASA; Anne Grambsch, EPA; Jerry Hatfield, USDA; Anthony Janetos; DOE Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; Linda Joyce, USDA Forest Service; Thomas Karl, NOAA; Michael McGeehin, CDC; Gavin Schmidt, NASA; Susan Solomon, NOAA; and Thomas Wilbanks, DOE Oak Ridge National Laboratory. You also reject the scientific knowldege of NOAA, USGCRP, IPCC, CCSP, NRC, EPA, ACIA, on which the EPA Report is heavily based. You also reject an EPA Report that "...relies most heavily on existing, and in most cases very recent, synthesis reports of climate change science and potential impacts, which have undergone their own peer-review processes, including review by the U.S. government." You also reject the document which also "underwent a technical review by 12 federal climate change experts, internal EPA review, interagency review, and a public comment period." To view more that gallopingcamel rejects, the report is here. Perhaps you agree with the petitioners who complained, including the states of Texas and Virginia and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and challenged the EPA regulations, citing recent controversies as evidence of flaws in climate science and a conspiracy among mainstream scientists to shut out dissenting views ? Well, the EPA rejected those. So, what do you reject and why ? What makes you believe that your own scientific knowledge is good enough to reject the EPA Report ? Don't say it's all down to politics...!
    0 0
  21. JMurphy (#121). Great work! You have listed the "learned fools" who know what they need to say to keep the gravy train rolling. All the experts in the establishment supported Urban VIII but history has forgotten who them.
    0 0
  22. gallopingcamel @ 122 You fail to see the irony of your last post. Back in the day of Pope Urban VIII the establishment was based on theology. Galileo's theory of heliocentrism was based on science and the empirical observations that he could make. Who ended up being right? Galileo with his damnable science...
    0 0
  23. ...Indeed its fair to say that today's establishment is ruled by the all powerful economic "realists". Once again science will triumph over the establishment's beliefs, but whereas it didn't happen within Galileo's lifetime, hopefully the establishment will see the error of its ways sooner than later.
    0 0
  24. #124: "science will triumph over the establishment's beliefs, but whereas it didn't happen within Galileo's lifetime, hopefully the establishment will see the error of its ways sooner than later" Sadly, it took over 200 years for 'the establishment' to see the error of its ways. By 2200, we'll have 800 ppm CO2? I teach high school science; as a new school year begins I remind myself of this: four out of five Americans (79%) correctly respond that the earth revolves around the sun, while 18% say it is the other way around. These results are comparable to those found in Germany when a similar question was asked there in 1996; in response to that poll, 74% of Germans gave the correct answer, while 16% thought the sun revolved around the earth, and 10% said they didn't know. When the question was asked in Great Britain that same year, 67% answered correctly, 19% answered incorrectly, and 14% didn't know. Science may indeed triumph some day, but there always seems to be that last 20-25% who will never get it.
    0 0
  25. Further to muoncounter's remarks, one of my concerns about this brouhaha over climate science is how the tactics employed to degrade public confidence in climate research necessarily can't and don't respect borders of inquiry. If somebody becomes the victim of purposeful confusion about the difference between hypothesis and theory or what "uncertainty" means in terms of confidence in scientific findings they're going to carry that loss of coherence everywhere they go, see everything through the same fuzzy cloud. Leading to things like this: The equations for special relativity assume that it is forever impossible to attain a velocity faster than the speed of light and that all inertial frames of reference are equivalent, hypotheses that can never be fully tested. Relativity rejects Newton's action at a distance, which is basic to Newtonian gravity and quantum mechanics. The mathematics of relativity assume no exceptions, yet in the time period immediately following the origin of the universe the relativity equations could not possibly have been valid. ... Relativity has been met with much resistance in the scientific world. To date, a Nobel Prize has never been awarded for relativity. Louis Essen, the man credited with determining the speed of light, wrote many fiery papers against it such as The Special Theory of Relativity: A Critical Analysis.[6] Relativity also gravely conflicts with quantum mechanics, and although theories like string theory and quantum field theory have attempted to unify relativity and quantum mechanics, neither has been entirely successful or proven. ... Despite censorship of dissent about relativity, evidence contrary to the theory is discussed outside of liberal universities. ... The Theory of Relativity enjoys a disproportionate share of federal funding of physics research today. Conservapedia article "Theory of Relativity" Sound familiar?
    0 0
  26. Doug, You have made my day. Knowledge of the existence of such a thing as 'conservapedia' enriches my existence. I suggest to anyone not willing to believe in relativity that they immediately forfeit their GPS units. Given these remarks about quantum mechanics, "Collapsing of the wave function is by no means magic. In can be intuitively understood as this: You find a particle at a particular spot; if you look again immediately, it's still in the same spot, they should also forfeit all semiconductor-based electronics. Of course, they have wonderful things to say about global warming: "The anthropogenic global warming theory is one of several explanations for the 1.5 degrees F of warming of the earth's surface recorded since the middle of the 19th century. The theory enjoys broad based political support from Liberals, Greens and the US Democratic Party, and theory supporters frequently assert the existence of a "scientific consensus" favoring their viewpoint" Not too long ago (during the height of the ID debate in the US), this was a popular cartoon in the world of science education:
    0 0
  27. Some great posts! Here are a few comments: macoles (#123 & #124), The irony was unintended. For me the establishment/consensus is often wrong whether it be based on religion or science. It is in my nature to question authority whether it is based on church, ideology or science. muoncounter (#125), Like you, I care about the teaching of science in K-12 as well as college level. In my state, there are 370 high schools but less than 40 teachers with physics degrees teaching science. The quality of science text books is critical when so few teachers have an adequate background in the subject. I hope you will want to support John Hubisz in his efforts to improve science text books: http://www.science-house.org/middleschool/ doug_bostrom (#126) In Newton's day they used to talk about "Laws" but modern physicists understand that they are always wrong even though their theories often have great predictive power. The perihelion of Mercury does precess as Einstein predicted, GPS systems need relativistic corrections and the energy released from nuclear reactions appears to follow the E=mc2 relationship. In spite of all this success, Einstein understood the limitations of his theories better than the folks at Conservapedia. muoncounter (#127), Loved the cartoon (how did I miss it?). At least one more pane needed for evolution vs. creationism.
    0 0
  28. gallopingcamel @128 It is a noble thing to question, and a necessary thing to question authority, but by what measure do you judge the answers? Science (when properly conducted) provides the best answers for the questions that are within the empirical realm. Outside of the empirical realm science can only make hypothesis. The many physical phenomena that contribute to the global climate are well within the empirical realm. Perhaps your arguement isn't with the science, but the method by which scientific concensus is arrived?
    0 0
  29. macoles (#129), I think you have it backwards. Science progresses by a series of testable hypotheses. I gave some examples in #128 of ways that Einstein's hypotheses have been tested. Although these tests appear to support the concept of general relativity, Einstein was well aware that such experiments do not prove him right, whereas a single experiment can prove him wrong. The climate scientists who preach Catastrophic Global Warming lack Albert's humility and act as though their fuzzy hypotheses have been proven beyond all shadow of doubt. Yet the predictive power of their theories is so weak that they cannot even explain past climates. Don't try to pretend that this nonsense is somehow comparable with the hard sciences which strive for 3 sigma or better precision. Scientists pushing CAGW are strongly supported by governments around the world. The danger is that this powerful political support may turn out to be Lysenkoism mutated into a much more virulent form. Scientific consensus is worthless, especially when it is authoritarian and lacking in accountability or transparency. Oops! The ghost of Urban VIII just mooned me.
    0 0
  30. GC - If there is one thing that climate science is not afraid of is making predictions. Temperature trends, patterns of warming, changes in humidity, changes in DLR and OLR, etc etc. And you look at the data and the predictions match. ANY scientific hypothesis, Einstein included, aims to make a both a prediction and make a statement about the expected range that uncertainties imply. Every measurement has an error associated with it so you compare on that basis. Climate prediction does fine on that basis. What the hell is 3 sigma precision? I assume you mean that null hypothesis can be rejected at 3 sigma level? Where is your problem then? The biggest beef really is that climate models don't do sub-decadal predictions and that you have wait 30 years for checking of SOME elements. The predictions for pattern, LR etc are spot on - what prediction isnt? Oh wait, the strawman non-predictions on various misinformation sites? This at very least has to tell you that there are significant risks that AGW is correct. Now "catastropophic AGW" is erecting another straw man. What is your scientific definition of catastrophic? The theory tells you that for given forcing, you will get given climate. If the rate of climatic change for your estimate of likely forcings seems uncomfortable to you then that is a judgement for you to make. I think your point about past climate is also misplaced. Climate theory is about predicting climate from known forcings. The difficulty with the past is determining the forcings not the climate systems response to forcings. The current climate models do extremely good job of explaining past climate given best guess for those forcings. The idea that governments are supporting climate scientist to create lies to support their nefarious schemes is ludicrous - leave that to tinfoil hat crowd please. This supposes that climate scientists in numerous groups in numerous countries are of one political persuasion and these governments are in collusion. A better understanding is to say that scientists worldwide are struggling desperately to get their governments to appreciate the risks that climate change pose, hampered by disinformation from established interests. "lacking accountability or transparency" - that is the limit. Climate science operates the most extraordinary environment with unprecedented levels of scrutiny and transparency. I am glad I am not having to work in such a fishbowl. Authoritarian? What authority? Just for moment, imagine it is all true and think how would anything be different.
    0 0
  31. I assume that the 3 sigma level means more conventionally that the null hypothesis should be rejected if p > 0.001 or thereabouts. This is not the generally recognised convention - depending on the domain p <= 0.01, 0.05 or in the really messy sciences 0.1 is closer to the mark. Outside of of laboratory physics demanding p values of 0.001 or lower is far too stringent. Don't believe me? Ask any statistician. Having said that, demanding p <= 0.001 might result in throwing out a lot of otherwise convergent evidence due to excessive zeal.
    0 0
  32. "Having said that, demanding p <= 0.001 might result in throwing out a lot of otherwise convergent evidence due to excessive zeal." And ignoring the wee issue about convergent evidence which would be that 'what is probability that null hypothesis is true, GIVEN all the lines of prediction that fall within say 2 sigma?'. The consilience question. I would have to say though that determining the full size of the uncertainties remains an issue.
    0 0
  33. scaddenp #133 I'm not sure I fully understand your comment. Although I'd take it on a case by case basis, I would tend to argue that consilience should cause us to relax our criterion for statistical significance, but I'd consider that on a case by case basis, given the hypothesised mechanism under investigation.
    0 0
  34. gallopingcamel @130 There will always be Doomsayers and Naysayers, the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle. Given the projections range from bad (warming continues at its current directly measurable rate) to extremely bad (warming accelerates as other positive feedbacks kick in), then the prudent thing is to work harder on improving the scientific knowledge - while at the same time pushing for action on reducing CO2. This is what the climate science "establishment" are trying to do. There is no need to invoke motivators other than professional concern for humanity's future.
    0 0
  35. Joining this thread a bit late, but here goes: I am also a practicing Christian ([Groucho] and believe me I need the practice! [/Groucho]), however religious people don't have a monopoly on wanting to "love thy neighbour" (and before anyone says "fnarr fnarr", this isn't "Carry on Climate Change", that's not what I meant! ;o). It is basically the golden rule, which is common to many ethical systems, both religious and secular. There is indeed no need to invoke motivators other than professional concern for humanities future, however that does not imply other well-meaning forms of motivation are a bad thing if they do actually motivate the correct action. My own motivation although I am a Christian is based on a golden rule style argument, and is not conciously of religious origin. Even if the effects of anthropogenic GHG emissions result in only a modest increase in temperatures, that may be enough to have serious consequences in places like Bangladesh, which are economically and agnriculturally already quite marginal. Unlike most of us in in places that are climatically stable (such as the UK) they are easily affected by climate change, and unlike most of us in the first world they do not necessarily have the resources to adapt. We in the first world have a responsibility for out past, present and future actions if they have a negative effect on others. We shouldn't need religious teachings to know that, it is merely justice. However that doesn't mean the religious teachings are not spot on in this case.
    0 0
  36. GC, #128: "The quality of science text books is critical when so few teachers have an adequate background in the subject." Oh, textbooks are important even when teachers have the requisite background; if only as an anchor against the fluctuating 'truthiness' one finds on wikipedia etal. That said, I live in one of the states that sets the textbook standards for the rest of the US; you have my profound apologies. "I hope you will want to support John Hubisz in his efforts to improve science text books:" I certainly enjoyed his comments on lab notebooks. #130: "Scientific consensus is worthless, especially when it is authoritarian and lacking in accountability or transparency." I'm not at all sure what you mean. Would you prefer that we act on ideas that are not supported by a consensus? If so, the folks at conservapedia have a bridge they'd like to sell. But authoritarian? Have you ever tried forcing an unsupported point through a room full of scientists? Good luck with that. An unmistakable sign of authoritarianism is the presence of an unthinking mob, ever-ready to take up 'four legs good, two legs bad,' rather than listen to something they don't want to hear. That kind of behavior is hardly ever seen here; but you do find it quite frequently among the Watts Up Doc crowd. So which side is authoritarian?
    0 0
  37. GC (130), Science progresses by a series of testable hypotheses. More precisely it progresses by testing those hypotheses against eachother, keeping the best ones around, and weaving them into larger theories with broad explanatory power. Theories are never perfect, but science doesn't advance because we reject every hypothesis if it's prediction is ever off by a little bit, it progresses when new theories are found or little previously unconsidered things are added to old theories to make their predictions better. That ultimately is what I wish I could see more of from the climate denial community. I wish I saw more working to advance our understanding of climate rather than to exaggerate our ignorance. That's a big part of why I have trouble taking denial scientists seriously. That and whenever I look into the latest "proof" that global warming is all wrong, it never amounts to anything. That and I have enough of a physics background to understand how the greenhouse effect works, and besides being measurable in a lab it really is an unavoidable consequence of perfectly well understood physics. So for global warming to be wrong, something about our climate must conspire to prevent it from having much effect, but that something must not prevent other things affecting our climate from having an effect too, as clearly our climate can change. Here is a talk on causes of climate change throughout the Earth's history that you may find interesting: http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/2009/12/19/richard-alley-the-biggest-control-knob-carbon-dioxide-in-earths-climate-history/ Our understanding of climate is quite far reaching. One finding of climate science is that if you change greenhouse gas levels and thus at the ground get additional trapped infrared radiation measured in W/m^2 averaged over the surface of the Earth, the effect on the Earth's average temperature is about the same as if the intensity of the sun changes, or the amount of blocked sunlight due to dust changes, or the amount of sunlight reflected directly back into space by glaciers changes by the same W/m^2 averaged over the Earth's surface. And if you put these all together and look over the century+ of thermometer data or the billions of years of Earth's history, just about every change is about as big as it should have been. Which is more likely, that we're basically right and in a few cases we don't have the complete picture of what drove change or how the Earth changed, or that we're completely wrong about how the climate works and no one (certainly not any climate deniers) has figured any of it out? On a side topic, Galileo was a good friend of the Medici family that ran Florence and they sponsored his work. Scientists have been working for government grants for as long as science has been done. He erred in thinking they could protect him from the Pope, though. Lysenkoism is a good example of what happens when science is corrupted by a government in the service of a specific ideology held by that government, but you imagine a worldwide conspiracy of governments of differing ideologies and economic interests all trying to corrupt science the same way. There is no historical precedent for this. What do you imagine to be the common interest? Were Arrhenius and Tyndall and Fourier in on this when they discovered the phenomenon back in the 1800s?
    0 0
  38. Posts #131 through #138, Thanks for remaining so reasonable and so eloquent. I am impressed. It reminds me of Lawrence Durrell and the Alexandrian Quartet. We are looking at the same Justine while drawing entirely different conclusions. I guess we will continue locking horns until Mother Nature reveals herself. I suspect we will not have to wait much longer. muoncounter (#137), Texas and California are indeed dominant when it comes to selecting which science text books will make huge sales. Your apology is appropriate and welcome John Hubisz details the "howlers" in the physics text books but the errors are seldom corrected when new editions are published. When a student finds something in a science text book that makes no sense he asks his teacher for an explanation. As long as the teacher knows the subject he will be able to set things straight. Unfortunately, most of the time in my state the teacher cannot say whether the text book is right or wrong and as a result many students are permanently "turned off". I hope we can agree that widespread scientific illiteracy is dangerous when our survival depends on sophisticated technology.
    0 0
  39. "I guess we will continue locking horns until Mother Nature reveals herself. I suspect we will not have to wait much longer." Hmm, could I be hopeful in reading this, or do you actually mean that you believe that suddenly AGW is going to get away and are expecting a down trend any day? Well I can predict with considerable confidence that next year will be cooler than this year. However, the interest will be comparing temperature with previous La Nina's of same magnitude. Not the start of the cooling trend - El Nino will return. GC - can you tell us what data would finally convince you that AGW is real? 10 year from now and warming continues apace, will you still be finding reasons why its not largely due to us? With so many predictions from AGW it is easy to see what data would could me and others to rethink our position. What would it take from you?
    0 0
  40. #139: "When a student finds something in a science text book that makes no sense he asks his teacher for an explanation." These days, students go to the interwebs (and each other) well before asking their teachers. That's why 'science' via echo-chamber-blogosphere is so dangerous and why your next statement so important. "I hope we can agree that widespread scientific illiteracy is dangerous when our survival depends on sophisticated technology. " Amen to that. Illiteracy is dangerous in all forms, but scientific illiteracy is like not knowing which is the business end of a loaded gun.
    0 0
  41. scaddenp (#140), Good question---"What would convince me that AGW is real?" Actually, I am already convinced but as I have said several times on this blog, I see it as a small beneficial effect rather than a problem (see #111 in this thread for example). You are probably right to suggest that next year will be cooler. The ENSO and PDO cycles will drive temperatures down for a while but in 20 to 30 years the trend will be up again. That is what I think of as Mother Nature revealing herself. Adding another 20+ years to the existing ~37 years of satellite data will greatly improve our ability to critique predictions by the IPCC and others.
    0 0
  42. GC, you're speaking of net benefit, aggregate so to speak?
    0 0
    Moderator Response: Great discussion to take into detail on the thread It’s Not Bad (Positives and Negatives of Global Warming).
  43. Sorry, truncated my remark there. I've been looking at the whole adaptation thing (which, no surprise we're going to be doing more or less, regardless of how we feel about mitigation) and among other factors in adaptation costs is how to account for direct impacts of a transitional climate. For example, there are twenty million people out of their houses today in Pakistan due to the recent flooding there, apparently much of the housing stock being destroyed beyond repair. Now, rather than argue about whether this is entirely due to climate change or entirely because of natural variability, we can take a statistical perspective and say that some proportion of these people need new homes due to a change in climate. Let's take a conservative approach and say that only five million are homeless due to climate forcing, arguably a reasonable number when the flood probability itself is taken into account. That number has to be entered into a ledger and stacked against benefit. There are myriads of details like this to take account of, "detail" perhaps being a poor choice of word. I use it because the intricacy and scale of this situation makes some millions of persons forced out of their homes into a "detail." See Tol, Stern and their citations for more information.
    0 0
  44. doug_bostrom, We appear to have strayed into another topic. Let me sign off this thread (picking my words very carefully to avoid needlessly offending anyone). John Cook is to be commended for running a really classy blog; it must involve a great deal of hard work for very little material reward. It is clear that he is doing it because (from his perspective) it is a worthwhile cause.
    0 0
  45. John, This post is excellent. I had intended to say so when you posted it but somehow never got around to it. I've come back to it today and want to thank you for a very clear and cogent explanation. I share both of your motivations (though with your daughter being switched for my own! Not that I don't also in some way care about the fate of your daughter and the whole next fifty generations who will be affected by these matters, but that my daughter symbolises that for me in way that is very concrete and personal). Though like others, I also think that a concern for the truth isn't irrelevant. This isn't about someone being wrong on the internet, but about thousands, or even millions, of people, many of them having a lot of money and influence, passing on dangerously misleading half-truths (or outright deliberate fibs). The truth matters and ignorance is not bliss, especially when as a politician, journalist, CEO or billionaire, you decide to share it with an audience of millions. Keep up the good work brother!
    0 0
  46. I'm one of them old timers, I learned about climate science before graduating high school in 1973. Never been a scientist, but always loved and learned about science, meaning I've been spending four decades keeping up on the science and the public dialogue, from a working layman's perspective. ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ I've been dialoguing over at http://www.skepticforum.com/viewtopic.php?p=223791#p223791 with a bunch of Skeptics. I hope you don't mind me sharing most of a recent post: Re: "Expert Credibility in Climate Change" examined Post #13 {...} Yes Christy is an interesting unique fellow, scientist. He was one of three scientists to land in both CE & UC lists. His science is one thing. His political pronouncements and very public advocacy are another. Do you appreciate that distinction? One problem with trying to communicate with "sceptics" is that they're all over the place. Big people like Senator Inhofe and his Morano make one deceptive, often down right fraudulent, claim after another - yet the troops are lining up behind him and his political machine. John Christy is a lot more nuanced and thoughtful - yet his main political message seems to be against any proactive political recognition or intervention in our self created AGW situation which he acknowledges is real. Instead believing that historic economic rules of the free wheeling free market approach should be encouraged, because more energy and consumption is what society needs to achieve more progress. Incidentally, another disturbing habit of "sceptics" is that rather than engage in a constructive dialogue of discovery with the "consensus science/scientists {and their fans} they resort to ridicule and rejection in the basest of terms. As though they've figured it out and all those other dude's are crazy. What's up with that? As for conclusions, I guess mainly that ~97% of real climate scientists agree upon the CO2 science and the basics of AGW as presented {in addition to wanting to continue the pursue of better understanding of the details}. But, that we know enough about the beast, that society needs to stop dragging its feet and pretending that this climate transition isn't going to have tremendous impacts upon society as we know it. ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Peter M http://citizenschallenge.blogspot.com
    0 0
  47. I just wanted to say thanks for making this site, and keeping up with it. I link to it whenever I get the chance. You've made everything so easy to understand, I love it!
    0 0
  48. I enjoy this site and you've assembled an impressive collection of sound arguments countering those promoted by the climate change deniers. But I question whether the "climate debate" is a proper focus for efforts to mitigate catastrophic climate change. In a world where average temperatures are 2 to 6 degrees C. higher than today, what difference will it make who was right or who was wrong about the climate? I don't believe deniers should be the ones setting the agenda for discussion.
    0 0
  49. Agreed Billy52, but what do you suggest should be done? Deniers will always set the agenda for discussion if they are provided the means to pursue their agenda effectively. As long as 1) the general public does not understand how its opinions are formed, 2) opinion-makers are given scientific authority on par with the consensus understanding of working scientists, and 3) we live in something that resembles a democracy, where the education of the public is essential to the ethical/moral success of the democracy, then the deniers will always set the agenda for discussion. As it is, all one needs to do is sound sciency enough for the general reader to be dulled toward fact-checking, and one can then claim just about anything and have it believed. The comment streams on news sites are evidence of that. Despite Dan Kahan's findings, I am still convinced that one the roots of the problem is comprehension. Undoubtedly, one's cultural surround makes strong and persistent demands on one's set of beliefs, and Kahan's study confirms this for climate risk:
    CCT [Kahan's cultural cognition theory] posits that people who subscribe to a hierarchical, individualistic world-view—one that ties authority to conspicuous social rankings and eschews collective interference with the decisions of individuals possessing such authority—tend to be sceptical of environmental risks.
    And, according to the results of Kahan's study, that stands fairly well for people who have the proven technical skill to understand the science. However, I posit that few people are capable of totally ignoring evidence-based reasoning. Cultural factors may severely delay understanding (and effectively prevent it, given the circumstances and issue), but eventually some minds are, in fact, changed. I've seen it happen on this website. One of my jobs as an educator is to reveal to individuals explicitly the cultural factors that influence those individuals. For me, that is the first role of higher education toward young people stepping into their adulthoods. Once the mechanism is revealed, competing epistemologies are truly on level playing ground, and science is pretty strong. However, the effectiveness of this revelation is diminished by the force with which the message is delivered. You can lead the horse to water, but if you try to force it to drink, it'll die of thirst first. The only force I apply in this "debate" is gently telling people to put up or shut up. I ask people how their beliefs were formed, and then I ask them to come discuss the science with an open mind. Invite deniers to ask questions and engage in open discussion (or be revealed as uncritical and gullible) on a site like SkS (where commenters, more than at any other site, are allowed to speak without being subject to intimidation). I think John's methodology with the site is effective in that respect, as it allows people to approach the science via their own beliefs, rather than being confronted by an unfamiliar staging. Unfortunately, though, learning through open discussion seems like a painfully slow process, and most people aren't allowed (explicitly or implicitly) to engage in that type of learning (and even when they are, the death of the humanities in higher education will eventually remove or severely diminish the opportunity). In my more cynical moments, I think it's all a waste of time, and that people aren't going to truly believe until it bites them in the posterior on a regular basis.
    0 0
  50. billy52 "I don't believe deniers should be the ones setting the agenda for discussion." But they do tell you where your obstacles are in the public debate. Taking an example from behaviour rather than science, I used to do a fair bit of adult education on prejudice/ discrimination generally and racial and gender equality of opportunity specifically. What was needed was a way to show people that their thinking was influenced by unthinking presumptions, but doing it politely and more-or-less gently in a non-threatening context before moving on to the hard stuff. (Talking about attitudes towards public servants or other occupational groups before moving on to personal attributes like skin colour or gender issues.) Discussions about climate and other science is a bit more difficult, because what you often have to show people is that their "unthinking presumptions" arise from inadequate understanding of large numbers generally and of scientific facts and reasoning in particular. For many people, this seems harder than acknowledging that, underneath their claimed lack of prejudice about women or particular ethnic groups, they do still harbour some totally unjustifiable assumptions. But both scenarios have one thing in common. For prejudice, you can legitimately tell people that it really doesn't matter what they think or how they feel. What does matter is what they say, how they behave and what decisions they make in their work. You really can fake it until you make it. And you don't even have to make it - change your privately held, not-so-nice views - so long as you don't impose them on other people or allow them to influence your work. For science, it's much the same thing. If you don't want to 'believe' it, you don't have to. But you do have to follow the bouncing ball. Use proper scientific references and accurate data in discussions. Ensure that public policy is based on the best and most recent scientific conclusions. Play at 'being a scientist' by adjusting your currently held position when new information or insight comes to hand. I know that we often presume that the most persistent deniers are driven by ideology rather than science. Many of them even make this claim quite openly. I have a sneaking suspicion that, in some cases, this is actually a bit of self-protection. Many people mistakenly think that science is all about being 'clever' and that they can't measure up on this scale. Alternatively, knowing that they are pretty clever, they presume that they can master any field with little to no effort. They're not mistaken about the clever requirement. They are seriously mistaken about what clever amounts to. It's not an eternal, inborn, unchanging quality like being born one gender or skin colour rather than another. Being clever is like being lucky. The harder you work the luckier, or the cleverer, you get. And if you start out clever, you can only demonstrate it by putting in the hard work. (Much as if you were born gifted with athletic or musical talent. Winning at Wimbledon or singing at La Scala are not things you can do by relying on untrained natural gifts.) Right now, I'm on the gloomy side. When I got my first solar hot water service 25 years ago, I really presumed that this was just one individual instance of the beginning of a sensible, gradual society-wide move towards renewable energy development. That water heater is still going strong. Not so much the rest of the picture.
    0 0

Prev  1  2  3  4  Next

You need to be logged in to post a comment. Login via the left margin or if you're new, register here.



The Consensus Project Website

THE ESCALATOR

(free to republish)


© Copyright 2020 John Cook
Home | Links | Translations | About Us | Privacy | Contact Us