There are few things that can get me as hot under my collar as people who flout scientific facts. Whilst I admit that I get a bit of a thrill every time someone comes on my blog to try and debate me otherwise it still saddens me that there are many people out there who are willing to disregard hard facts in favour of anecdotes and emotional arguments. When it comes to anthropogenic (read: man made) climate change I all too often find people who aren’t willing to believe that there’s resound scientific consensus on the issue, instead wanting to believe the story that there’s still on-going debate. This could not be farther from the truth as the scientific community, and more specifically the ones specializing in climate, are in such unity on the idea that only one, out of almost 10,000, disagrees:
This picture has been doing the rounds on social media for a while now and it aptly highlights that there really isn’t an on-going debate among climate scientists about whether or not anthropogenic climate change is occurring. Still many media outlets feel compelled to provide a “balanced” story, pitting top climate scientists against celebrities, politicians and anyone else who isn’t exactly qualified to comment on where the science stands on this. Such debate thus lends credence to the idea that both are equally valid when, in fact, anyone who’s an expert in the field would say otherwise. Typically I could just write this off however a recent study from 2 universities in the USA has me very worried about how the general public is processing this information.
The report states that the number of people in the USA that flat out don’t believe climate change is happening at all has increased by 7% since the beginning of last year rising to a rather staggering 23%. Worst still they’re becoming far more stubborn about their views with many more people now saying that they’re unlikely to change their stance. The only bit of good news in there is that the majority of the USA believe climate change is happening although the percentage of those that believe its caused by us is declining.Taking the figures at face value I really was surprised to see that this was occurring but the explanation is what blew me away.
So apparently climate change deniers came up with the theory that we’re actually in a global warming “pause” as the amount of warming over the past 15 years has slowed down. Now forgetting for a second that this means they’re agreeing in principle to the idea of global warming (as you can’t say the warming has slowed without acknowledging it’s happening) taking short time slices of a phenomenon that occurs over a period of decades or centuries is a best disingenuous. We could just as easily take a similar time slice from multiple different periods to prove the opposite but instead we’ll just take the large swath of data we have that has shown an upward trend in temperatures that strongly correlates with the amount of carbon we’ve pumped into the atmosphere.
I know I’m preaching the the choir here but the mental gymnastics I’d have to go through to believe this kind of tripe befuddles me. Sure I can understand that when faced with problems this large with such huge consequences rational thought processes tend to shut down but it’s really not that difficult to take ownership of it in order to start making a positive difference. We all need to stop humouring those who harbour opinions that not only fly in the face of science but also prove to be extremely damaging to the rest of the world. The longer we entertain the idea that we need a balanced debate about things like this the worse the problem will get and I won’t feel at all good about saying “I told you so” when all of Australia’s beaches are underwater.
It was about 2 weeks ago when I was driving home from work when Triple J’s current affairs program Hack came on the radio. The topic of the day was climate change and it caught my ear not because I’m terribly involved in the movement (although I have blogged around it on 4 separate occasions in the past) but because it was leading up to a program I had seen advertised on the ABC called I Can Change Your Mind on Climate. The show pits Anna Rose, a noted environmental activist, against well noted (and much derided here on this blog) former senator Nick Minchin, a climate change skeptic/denier. The program was to focus on them travelling the world and meeting with experts from their side of the argument, in the hopes to swing them to one side or the other.
The idea intrigued me as whilst I was once a person who could be at best described as a climate change agnostic (I didn’t have enough information to sway me to either side) actual research into the phenomena showed that the evidence was unequivocally for it happening and that us humans were to blame for it. Thus I wasn’t so interested in Anna Rose’s side of the argument as I’m already sold on that, but I was intrigued to see what kind of experts Nick Minchin could dredge up to support his claims. Unfortunately due to work commitments I didn’t catch the show but from what I’ve heard neither gave any ground and objectively Minchin did more harm than good by the experts he chose.
That would’ve been the end of it but the show came up in conversation yesterday. To my surprise it was met with much derision even though I thought that it was for the most part bad for Minchin and great for everyone else. Their issue wasn’t so much the program but with the format in which it was presented, pitting one side of an argument against the other. Whilst this might appear to be the fair and balanced way (snicker) of discussing the material at hand it is in fact portraying a situation that simply doesn’t exist.
The one that there are 2 legitimate sides to this argument.
Anyone who’s not familiar with the current state of climate science watching such a program would believe that there’s still an ongoing debate on whether or not climate change is man made. Scientifically speaking this is far from the truth as 97% of scientists surveyed (of a total of 489) support that view point. Of the 3% that don’t agree with that view point most of them were not in an area related to climate research which takes the overall percentage of climate scientists who believe climate change is man made much closer to the 100% mark. The current debate is around what the impact will be and its severity, but with shows like the former you’d still think that the scientists are out on whether or not we’re at the center of this environmental problem.
This is the problem with representing opposing views with equal standing to a public that only gets its information from a single source. It’s highly unlikely that someone undecided on climate change would come away from such a program thinking that they needed to research it more. Instead such programs would either reinforce currently held beliefs (whether for good or bad) or simply leave them in the agnostic state they were in to begin with. It may be time for the government to go on an climate change denier campaign in much the same way as they’ve done for smoking as there’s just as much scientific evidence to support both.
Realistically I know I’m preaching to the choir here but posts like these (my piece on the anti-vaccination movement being one of them) seems to attract the kinds of crazies that I’m hoping will do a double take and think about their current position. I know that it’s a hard sell for those guys, most will just dismiss this post outright, but if I can get through to some I’ll consider it a success.