Via James McGrath, this is a pithy summary of the real problem in attempting to discuss climate change science with a lot of folk....

No wonder NCSE has found it necessary to broaden the scope of their watchful eye, and create a clearinghouse for climate change education.

I mean, a lot of times the same fella who's arguing that climate change is a hoax, doesn't even believe that the data from 400,000-year-old ice cores is even 40,000 years old....because they think the Earth is, at most, about 10,000 years old. One set of denials supports another.

Now, it was possible once to be a science teacher and hold a fairly conservative assessment of climate change. Prior to the last two IPCC Reports, an instructor could argue with some credibility that while there seemed to be a recent warming trend in global climate, that the book was still out on whether human activity was a major factor in promoting this trend, and that more research was needed. I can say this with some authority, because as recently as 2005 this was the stance I took in my classes. I did not at any point want to overstate the science, and I was in no hurry to add any more potentially controversial material to a curriculum that already includes a healthy dose of sex, evolution and bioethical dilemmas.

But after the Fourth Assessment (2007), it was pretty clear that there was a scientific consensus. No scientific body of national or international standing dissents with the last IPCC Report. In June of 2007, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the last major holdout, replaced an earlier statement rejecting anthropogenic climate change with a non-committal position that reflected the views of a majority of its 30,000-odd members, most of whom have substantial experiencing working in the private sector for energy companies. AAPG's non-committal position, while a positive development, is still an outlier: after all, all of the G-8 nations scientific academies had previously endorsed, without reservation, the Third Assessment back in 2001.

So, now, I'm whistling a different tune. Ironically, while the state of the science in support of anthropogenic climate change is more settled that ever, public support for the science is less than when my teaching career began, thanks to a steady drumbeat of misinformation from various quarters, many of whom are pursuing a delaying action in the public square. So, thanks once again for NCSE for providing a framework for science educators to teach their state standards openly without fear of reprisal from those who want to suppress basic, well-established science:

1 comment:

Max Cannon said...

Scott, you and I have had this conversation many times. Since my birth,I've experienced two "global warmings" and two "ice ages" that were attributed to man's activities. In fact, I believe I was born in the warmest year of the 20th century, 1934 according to the stats. The moment it was politically co-opted, it was no longer on my radar. Global warming, like homelessness, seems to be politically cyclical. I guess you would have to put me in the denier category. I believe that climate change occurs. I just think it's the epitome of vanity to give man that power status.