Meeting Opinions With Facts – Just Another Day as a Climate Change Skeptic

Note to self: It’s OK to think about climate, but it’s also OK to be in possession of a few facts.

Writing at Big Think, David Berreby laments the simple fact that people who are more knowledgeable about science are more likely to be climate change skeptics than they are to be global warming believers. Berreby takes as an article of faith that rising sea levels are a real-time threat to coastal dwellers the world over. Um, no they’re not.

I note that Berreby’s entire article, which posits a relationship between how people respond to climate change and their political philosophy, contains not a single scientific fact. I was a lifelong confirmed lefty when I became a climate change skeptic, and it is my new understanding of the science that has produced a political change in me (toward the right) rather than the other way around. The moral high ground presumed by Mr. Berreby is imaginary, by the way, as I write about here.

Getting back to that paucity of facts, does Berreby know that this moment in Earth’s climate history is not particularly warm? Does he know that the current interglacial is the coolest of the last four? Does he know that sea level was 15 feet higher during the interglacial immediately prior to this one? Does he know that forest rose all the way to the Arctic coastline in northern Siberia 7,000 years ago? Does he know that temperature on Earth routinely undergoes fluctuations of the same magnitude that we’ve seen in the last 150 years? Does he know that Antarctic sea ice has risen during the entire period of satellite measurement that began in 1979? Does he know that the South Pole temperature recording station has shown cooling for the same time period? Does he know that the Little Ice Age, from which the planet has been rebounding temperature-wise since about 1850 was no picnic for humankind? Does he know that historically warm periods are benevolent and cold periods not?

If he reads my book, he’ll know all of these things.

Berreby makes a big point of discussing how important it is not to turn one’s intellectual opponents into strawmen, and then proceeds to strive to turn climate skeptics into strawmen himself. Another fruit of reading my book: he’ll be in a position to know what climate skeptics, as real as he is, actually know.

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About Harold Ambler

Harold Ambler has been writing about weather and climate for more than 20 years. He started his journalism career at The New Yorker and his work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, The AtlanticWire, and, among other places. He lives in Rhode Island.
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2 Responses to Meeting Opinions With Facts – Just Another Day as a Climate Change Skeptic

  1. blogagog says:

    “…it is my new understanding of the science that has produced a political change in me (toward the right)…”

    Yay! Welcome, friend :).

  2. TinyCO2 says:

    In this age of education, 24hr news and the internet, it’s a pity that we have to side politically left or right when we can have very different opinions on a multitude of subjects that don’t fit us to one side or the other. Each person is a meld of left and right wing ideals and to try and make AGW a political issue is to misunderstand people completely.

    I would broadly divide left and right into community responsibility versus individual responsibility. Each has positive and negative effects for the individual. Those who have embraced AGW are thinking ‘we should do something about it so that we don’t suffer in the future’. By which they mean ‘somebody else should be spending the money of the rich so that my life is undisturbed’. It doesn’t occur to them that action on AGW means everybody pays. Big time. They haven’t even noticed that taxes to pay for carbon reduction schemes actually impact hardest on the poor. As people realise that there’s no such thing as community money (it’s money from your own pocket) they begin to question the wisdom of action on AGW. Everyone on the planet has a point where they go from left wing to right wing when it comes to taxes. Since the science on AGW is so poor, that tipping point will be sooner rather than later. Ah the warmists love a tipping point.

    The UK is ahead of the US in swerving to the left on AGW and now it’s drifting back to the right as the costs are beginning to bite. We have a very limp sort of politics here that generally means that nobody is happy but nobody is really outraged. AGW appealed to both sides as a crusade but now they’re beginning to realise that it’s a money pit with no chance of anyone coming out as a hero in their political lifetime. Actions so far have been cripplingly expensive and have been the CO2 reduction equivalent of piddling on a forest fire. It’s taking time but questions are being asked at last.

    As an agnostic on AGW I hate the ‘it’s all true’ or ‘it’s all false’ polarisation of the issue. I do know that the current softly softly approach by believers is the worst option. If AGW is a genuine problem then nothing we are doing at the moment will even scratch the surface and turning up the heat slowly on the public will just make them ignore the issue. This is acutely true of celebrity supporters of AGW who clearly have no idea about the personal implications of cutting CO2. If it’s true then severe hardship is the only viable option currently available (even with nuclear). If it is an issue but we can engineer our way out of it then we should save our money for that option. If it’s not an issue then we shouldn’t be haemorrhaging cash and community good will on it. If we’re just not sure then we should wait and see. You can’t magic a movement infinitely greater than the industrial revolution out of the precautionary principle.

    If AGW was a clear cut issue we’d nearly all be leftwing about it. When are AGW supporters going to realise that the weaker their arguments the more rightwing people are going to be?

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