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Battle Lost?

Entry 1148, on 2010-01-26 at 22:34:57 (Rating 4, Science)

The facts haven't changed and the evidence seems to be getting more compelling but I think the battle to have serious action taken to prevent significant climate change has been lost. Public and political opinion often isn't based on facts and the facts of climate science are particularly subtle because they involve many statistical phenomena, complex interrelationships between causes and effects, and very little certainty.

Yes, even the experts cannot be completely certain about the models, the theories, or the likely pace and exact direction of climate change. Plus there are the embarrassing errors and less than ideal behaviour of some climate scientists (I'm talking about the IPCC's incorrect claim that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035 and the rather naive and unfortunate emails hacked at the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia).

None of this affects the big picture of climate change and the sensible option is still to try to minimise the production of gases which cause warming, but these problems have given the warming deniers the material they need to push their political agenda on a public who were already uncertain about the process.

I debate with several people who are global warming deniers (I refuse to call them skeptics because they don't share any of the characteristics of the skeptical groups I am involved with) and none of them have a good case to support their beliefs. The material they produce is inconsistent, unsupported, and (worst of all) politically motivated.

One of my opponents is a supporter of the prominent GW denier, Christopher Monckton. Monckton would have little credibility amongst most groups because he has no expertise in climate science or in science at all, and has a clear political bias. He is a former journalist and a political adviser to British ex-prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Many on the right admire Thatcher while most on the left despise her, but whatever your opinion her political adviser would have been very conservative and not exactly science oriented.

But if a person is determined to listen to someone, even if they have almost no credibility, then there's not a lot you can do about it. I can quote scientific reports from the world's leading experts backed up by real data and my opposition prefers to believe a PowerPoint presentation with cherry-picked data, invalid political conclusions, and false accusations which have been disproved years ago.

As is often the case in these situations, the more ignorant your opposition is the harder it is to debate with them. Its like trying to debate the merits of string theory with a 4 year old at a kindergarten: they just don't know enough to realise they're wrong.

Of course, no rant against my ignorant opponents would be complete without a mention of creationism. All the above also applies to creationism (and other forms of absurd religious belief). They are also motivated by a philosophy which often specifically avoids pursuing the truth: religion (instead of politics which is usually the underlying problem with GW). And they also debate at a ridiculously childish and illogical level which is harder to argue against than someone debating at a similar level to myself.

If global warming does result in the disasters which have been predicted (and I hope it doesn't although most of the evidence indicates it will) then all the deniers will know they're wrong. But then it will be too late - maybe it is already. Self-interest and greed have always beaten doing what's right. Its sad but true.


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