Frequently Answered Questions • 14 December 2009 • The SnowBlog

Frequently Answered Questions

The last time I mentioned manmade climate change I got a lot of comments telling me it didn't exist (or was nothing much to worry about). The reasons given tended to contradict each other, but the sentiment was shared: we can't agree on why, but we know humans aren't disrupting the climate. That strange pseudo-consensus really confuses me. Having just read Ben Goldacre's latest article, I thought I'd pass along the link he mentions to which contains a refutation of the most common reasons people give for discounting manmade climate disruption. Maybe, if your favourite reason is on the list you might want to read the rebuttal. Or maybe you'd rather not. Really, the whole thing has me perplexed. As the Goldacre article puts it: "why do roughly half the people in this country not believe in man-made climate change, when the overwhelming majority of scientists do?" And I can't believe the answer is that non-scientists are just better at understanding this stuff. On the other hand, Dara O'Briain had a much more inflammatory (and amusing) point of view on Radio 4's The Infinite Monkey Cage. He thought that people don't like to be told their opinion isn't valid. They feel they have a right to be heard. And they therefore object to disciplines where the opinion of a partly-informed layman is considered worthless. I've also heard the view that until Governments take this stuff seriously and start making big changes, non-technical voters aren't likely to believe their empty words on the subject. And Ben Goldacre adds that anyway we don't trust governments to tell us the truth. They sometimes lie about the big stuff (like wars) and they fired Prof. Nutt for voicing the truth out of turn. Whatever's going on here, I hope that either the sceptics can hurry up and explain to the climate scientists where they've been going wrong or the opposite can happen. Because when the well-informed experts say we're in deep trouble, it doesn't make me feel better to learn that millions of non-experts disagree; it makes me feel much worse.


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