Let’s get this out of the way…
I don’t believe in Anthropogenic Climate Change (or just Climate Change).
It shouldn’t be. The reason I don’t believe in Climate Change is because I don’t need to believe in a scientific theory. Actually, no one needs to believe in a scientific theory. Just look at the meaning of believe:
To have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so (from Dictionary.com).
I accept the scientific theory of Climate Change, and why shouldn’t I? It’s one of the most supported (by observations, measurements and experiments) scientific theories out there. To not accept it would not only be counter-intuitive, but also counter-survival, and just plain primitive.
Let examine the rationale for not accepting the theory of Climate Change. Okay, I was teasing, there isn’t any rationale for this. The overwhelming majority of people who don’t accept the theory don’t understand the theory. That’s okay, but most of the people who DO accept the theory don’t understand it either. And just saying “as mankind puts more CO2 into the atmosphere, the temperature rises”, isn’t understanding it anymore than saying “plate tectonics causes earthquakes”.
But it’s okay to not understand the theory. There are MANY, MANY things that we accept, despite the fact we don’t understand it. And there are also MANY things we ALL accept (well, all but a tiny minority), despite the fact that most of us don’t understand it. Just a few of these are:
- Why the sky is blue
- The planets’ rotation about the sun (and the rotation of the moon around its planet)
- Newton’s Laws of Motion
- Thermodynamics (trust me, you live by this, even if you don’t remember learning it)
- Gravity (especially Dr. Ben Carson)
So, there are all of these theories that we accept and live by, even though we don’t understand them. So why should Climate Change be any different?
When I first started this blog, I was under the assumption that I was going to focus primarily on ways to communicate with skeptics and deniers, and persuade them on the validity of Climate Change science. I have come to the realization that this is a fool’s errand.
But do not abandon all hope! If instead of persuading skeptics and deniers as to the validity of the science, perhaps a common ground could be found that would allow us to make a more significant dent in carbon emissions – and perhaps even reverse them.
One might ask, “How can you find common ground, when your opinions are diametrically opposed?” Good question, One!
The answer is simply expressed, even if the details are far, far more complicated. You look for common ground on related issues that meet the needs of both parties.
An example: When Maryland State Delegate Heather Mizeur wanted to expand family planning services to cover low-income women, she approached the most conservative delegate (which admittedly in Maryland is probably equivalent to a moderate in other states), and asked him if he would agree to co-sponsor a bill that would eliminate as many 3,000 abortions per year. Well, that got his attention, and he listened as she presented her ideas on how expanding family planning to women at or below 200% of the poverty level could avert as many as 8,000 unintended pregnancies a year, not only reducing the number of abortions but saving as much as $40 million a year from the general fund that would otherwise have been spent on Medicaid expenses. He was convinced, and co-sponsored the bill – which basically assured it’s passage. In the interest of fairness, I should say that the conservative delegate was Michael Smigiel. And far from just covering “family planning,” the Family Planning Works Act, which was signed into law in May of 2011, “makes Medicaid-funded birth control, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, cancer screenings, and other essential services accessible to an additional 33,000 low- and moderate-income women in the state.”
So, rather than wasting time on persuasion, I think it’s time to try Mutually Assured Construction.
In future posts, I want to cover some ideas on this, talk about talking about Climate Change in general, cover some of the basics of the science, explore some controversial ideas (Fracking anyone?), and other related topics.
Sorry there has been such a long gap between posts. A combination of personal and medical issues kept me away for awhile, but I am taking this as extra motivation. And talk about perfect timing!
A recent poll by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication (Home Page) examined the change in American public opinion after this cold winter. A few highlights from the poll:
This is exactly why I started this blog. This poll highlights the TERRIBLE job the press has been doing educating the public on even the basics of climate change science. Politicians and celebrities tend to throw a lot of confusion into the mix, whatever view they hold. Finally, to a lesser extent the fault also lies with the scientists and institutions researching the topic.
I have to admit that one of the biggest stumbling blocks when discussing climate change is trying to explain that climate change is not seen in one weather event, one season, or even one year of weather.
Take the EF-5 tornado that devastated Moore, Oklahoma. It didn’t take long for Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island to blame the tornado (along with other disasters) on climate change. Such a ridiculous claim did nothing to move the conversation forward, and it served only to provide fodder for every conservative commentator, pundit and blogger to first ridicule him, and then by extension, every proponent of global climate change theory.
It’s time to change the conversation.
In my introductory post I referred an event about four months ago, one that had a profound effect on me, and one that inspired this blog that you are reading.
I was listening to a program on NPR (exactly which one I am unsure of), in which Dan Kahan, who holds the impressive sounding title of Elizabeth K. Dollard professor of law AND professor of psychology at Yale Law School, was being interviewed on the topic of the public perception of Global Climate Change. Mr. Kahan made the claim that skeptics of Global Climate Change were not only as scientifically literate as believers in Global Climate Change, but in fact were generally MORE literate!
Ok, that took me completely by surprise. As a long time proponent of the theory of Global Climate Change, I was part of a large group that believed that all we had to do to sway people away from their skepticism was to educate them more. And now Dan Kahan was telling me that I couldn’t be more wrong!
Let’s just say that I spent a lot of time thinking about this. (to be continued)
But more on that later.
It always seems appropriate to begin a new blog with “Why the heck am I doing this?” and, perhaps more importantly, “Why should anyone care about what I have to say?”
I hope answering the first question in this initial post will somewhat answer the second. I plan on addressing the second question in subsequent posts, and hope that the reader will see something early on that will make them keep coming back – at least periodically.
As to the reasons why I created this blog, they really fall into two categories.
The first is that after being out of the science game for nearly a decade (and particularly the topic of Global Climate Change), I am trying to get back in – probably not doing research, more likely in advocacy, lobbying and certainly communications. This blog is intended to help me get back in the swing of things, help me focus my thoughts on the state-of-the-art in Global Climate Change.
Second, I hope to help change the “climate” of the discussion, to lessen the antipathy between the proponents and opponents, the believers and the skeptics. My impetus for this is alluded to in the title of this first post – again, more on that later.
To that end, I welcome any well-reasoned believer OR skeptic to this discussion. I don’t think there is room for the denier, some one who is so sure of their position that no evidence or argument will cause them doubt. Just as there is no room for the fanatic, some one who won’t question or research if a good argument or piece of data doesn’t fit their worldview.