Climate Change Science In the News Again
October 26, 2011 1 Comment
The science behind climate change has been thrust back into the media spotlight in the last few days, after a former global warming skeptic and Berkeley physicist led a study that ended up corroborating prior research showing that the Earth is indeed warming. He wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal explaining why he had been skeptical of the climate change evidence and how his own study took into account all of the factors that had left him doubtful, and ended up agreeing with the mainstream evidence after all.
If you’ve heard scientific-sounding arguments against climate change and weren’t sure how to address them, this op-ed might be interesting to you. The punchline, though, is this:
When we began our study, we felt that skeptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn’t know what we’d find. Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been very careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that. They managed to avoid bias in their data selection, homogenization and other corrections.
Global warming is real. Perhaps our results will help cool this portion of the climate debate. How much of the warming is due to humans and what will be the likely effects? We made no independent assessment of that.
On its surface this news story sounds like a good thing, but I don’t like it. The soundbite version is that “even a skeptical scientist was convinced once he looked hard at the evidence.” The implication is that the vast majority of scientists who accept climate change theory aren’t sufficiently, reasonably skeptical. It promotes the idea that mainstream scientists can’t be trusted, which is why an “outsider”, a member of the denial faction, had to find out for himself and carry the word back to his fellow deniers.
Obviously that’s only my very subjective take on things, but I can’t help but feel that that’s how news agencies are pitching it to the public. Otherwise, it would be irrelevant that this physicist was a climate change skeptic – it has no bearing on the science, it’s purely a means of making him sound trustworthy to other deniers. It may serve to convert some people, but for a lot of people it’ll only reinforce their “scientists can’t be trusted” mentality – and now this physicist will be just one of those lying mainstream scientists to them.
That being said, what’s the alternative way of convincing deniers? I don’t know… I’d like to go on about this, but since this is Science Picks and not André Rants I’ll move on: I want to share an interesting series of articles from New Scientist discussing what we do and don’t know about climate change. I don’t want this post to be crazy long, so check it out in the next post!