Two days after my last column was published, I saw an article in redstate.com stating “Global Warming Alarmists Manipulate Climate Data.” It angered and saddened me because it used the lingua franca – the common tongue – of climate change denialists to undermine scientists and their science with oft-repeated lies.
That column described how, beginning in the 19th century, scientists have documented man’s increasing influence on Earth’s rising temperature. From the earliest laboratory experiments through the latest sophisticated computer simulations, the arrow of evidence flies straight.
A decade ago, I fell prey to websites denying man’s influence, even while admitting that climate was changing. “So what? Climate has always changed,” was the explanation.
Trying to understand the counterclaims by denialists and legitimate scientists, I took far too long attempting to judge fairly. I’d been away from science for more than a decade teaching English in China, and it took a while to regain confidence in my own capacity to “do science.”
Denialists use the same inflammatory, conspiratorial language they accuse scientists of using. My knowledge of English, and of writing in particular, should have tipped me off sooner, but it didn’t. I was trying to be fair.
Evidence is strong that anthropogenic global warming is changing Earth’s climate. Politicians of both parties are starting to agree about what might be done. A Jan. 11 article in the conservative New York Post was headlined “The surprisingly smart solution to climate change – coming from conservatives.” It describes how growing numbers of conservatives concerned about climate change are “developing policies to fight it.” Congress is currently considering the bipartisan Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019 (HR763).
Many denialists don’t understand how science works. Scientists observe natural phenomena, draw inferences from their observations, hypothesize relationships and causality, then gather evidence supporting or disproving those hypotheses. They never “prove” a hypothesis.
If evidence is strong enough, scientists describe their findings in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Reviewers are other scientists qualified to evaluate, before publication, the scientific methods and evidence presented in that journal. The system of scientific research and reporting is self-correcting.
Is the system perfect? Of course not. It involves humans, and we’re prone to error, dishonesty and similar foibles. But the system works in the long run. Better yet, as evidence mounts, new findings build on older ones until scientists are quite confident – never “certain” – but confident their findings are strong enough to support policies of government and industry decisionmakers.
Is global warming rooted in conspiracy? If so, it involves conspiratorial scientists and policymakers of multiple races and religions, numbering tens of thousands around this warming world.
So it angers me to read about global warming alarmists manipulating climate data. The article makes unfounded inferences about the motives of scientists. Words like “alarmist,” “warmist” and “brazen environmental propaganda” preclude possibility of meaningful discourse.
It mentions a “data massaging conspiracy” by “Leftists” and 10-year-old “Climate Gate” emails (Google it), hacked to demonstrate conspiracy among climate scientists. Multiple investigations by several scientific organizations reported “no evidence” of data manipulation and “no research misconduct … the case is closed.” Yet denialists keep reintroducing the discredited incident.
This is not the way of science; it is the way of people with clear agendas. This is only climate change, not politics. What will the next 10 months bring as the presidential election heats up? That’s a subject for a later column, but here are some ideas for developing your resistance to disinformation, misinformation and blatant lies.
When you find yourself reacting emotionally to a statement about something dear to your heart — global warming, politics or even the Third Street bridge — stop and consider: Why am I reacting this way? What is there in the language or presentation that’s raising my hackles? Is the language evocative, designed to create an emotional reaction? Or are the words thoughtful, objective and clear, with no name-calling or pejorative connotations?
People often try to change our minds, to sell us something, and they can be very good at it. Be aware, be cautious, be skeptical. Ultimately the decision is yours.
Pete Haug’s eclectic interests and several careers drew himacross the U.S. and into China with Jolie, his wife and sometime draconian editor. They retired south of Colfax. He’ll happilysupply supporting documentation for any statements if you askhim at firstname.lastname@example.org.