The internet allows anyone, even those who don’t know the first thing about what they are writing, to advocate their pet hypotheses. Sadly, erroneous ideas are too easily repeated as though facts by others to perpetuate misinformation; the more repetitions, the more easily one finds wrong ideas when surfing. This is why many academics, self included, do not allow their students to use sources other than the primary literature: the web is replete with dangerous misinformation. Such misinformation is the fodder for Holocaust deniers and all other manner of obscenity; a Lethbridge professor is currently using the argument that the internet is factual as support anti-Semitic rants. The internet is not factual evidence; it is an un-policed repository for whatever anyone want to put there. As another illustration of the danger of the internet, check the credentials of deniers of global warming. You will almost certainly find someone who has done a bit of surfing, and even more likely has not bothered with consulting the scientific literature.
Skepticism is a healthy expectation in science and other academic disciplines. And we should not abandon skepticism, but we should also not emphasize skepticism over overwhelming consensus, because costs to us now (i.e., more severe weather such as recently in Sydney, etc.) from global warming (NASA 2016) are already mounting faster than we are exposing the folly of deniers of global warming. By overwhelming consensus, I mean that 97.1% of climate scientists (i.e., only people with credibility on the topic) agreed that global warming is a fact (Cook et al. 2016; and for fun, check out this video). You will rarely find this degree of agreement in any field of science! Perhaps you don’t trust scientists or NASA; if so, you probably are also skeptical about us having put people on the moon, or probes in the farthest reaches of our solar system. I will trust NASA long before I trust an untrained denier of global warming. In any case, skepticism about global warming has taken the most distant back burner; this is why virtually every government in the world is actively and aggressively working to address the problem. They know it is the right approach.
Is CO2 partly responsible? According to climate scientists, it is. Does it matter that CO2 makes up <0.04% of the atmosphere was CO2? Think about this; how much botulism toxin do you need to consume before you die? The answer is 0.000000013 g will kill you. In other words, it’s not the absolute amount that’s important, it’s the magnitude of the effect of each bit.
A bit of history. What happens when controversial ideas are first presented? Ever heard about how Copernicus suggested that the Sun didn’t revolve around Earth? Famously, even Galileo had to recant his support for this. Have you met any credible folks that suggest that the sun revolves around the earth? Have you met any credible folks that believe that the earth is flat? Skeptics also proclaimed that humans would never be able to build a machine that could fly. The pattern repeated, ad nauseum, is that no one believes an idea initially, then a few do, then many, then all the credible individuals do, and eventually nobody cares about the doubters. If an idea is correct and stands up to rigorous scrutiny, as have ideas about global warming (which incidentally dates back to 1896!), credible skeptics fall away, and the history of examples above show that poorly informed hoax advocates will eventually fade into obscurity. We’re at the latter phase for global warming.
Let’s take solace in the history of deniers. As George Santayana (1863) said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Cook, J., Oreskes, N., Doran, P.T., Anderegg, W.R., Verheggen, B., Maibach, E.W., Carlton, J.S., Lewandowsky, S., Skuce, A.G., Green, S.A. and Nuccitelli, D. 2016. Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming. Environmental Research Letters 11(4): p.048002.
The Science is settled when scientists stop arguing but this is by far not the case with the discussion around the consequences (good or bad) of global warming or climate change and what is causing it. What is striking about Dr. Shutler’s comments is that they seem more moralizing than dealing with the actual presented arguments against global warming alarmism. It is also worth noting that in the same breath as he speaks against the validity of the Internet, he points to the Internet for more information to back up his claims. As for not trusting NASA, a healthy skepticism regarding their data is in order since the study of Dr. Karl Ewert (University of Paderborn, Germany) demonstrates tampering with the data to back up claims of catastrophic global warming. He presented his research at the EIKE –International conference of Climate and Energy in 2012:
This would not be the first time of data manipulation to back up global warming alarmism.
As for the overwhelming consensus (97.1%) of scientists who agree with human caused global warming, this claim is based on a study by John Cook declaring he and his fellows reviewed nearly 12,000 abstracts of studies published in peer-reviewed climate literature. Cook reported that he and his colleagues found that 97% of the papers “endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming”. It turned out that the whole study was bogus since only 41 out of the 11,944 published climate papers Cook examined explicitly stated that global warming is caused by human activity. The way Cook’s study was conducted could even confirm that 97% of scientists agree that gravity does not exist and it would go like this: “Shock news: gravity consensus in doubt as only 0.3% of papers with gravity in title explicitly endorse gravity as being responsible for 100% of falling.” In simple terms, anyone who had mentioned global warming in his research, no matter in what context, automatically endorsed the claim of human caused global warming. And yes, there are attempts to still prove that Cooks conclusions are correct but this just proves my point. The science is not settled and discussion should be welcomed otherwise – yes- we are sentencing Galileo for a second time.
And now examples of the settled science from the 1970’s regarding the dangers of Global Cooling and the coming Ice Age which would produce millions of climate refugees: http://www.populartechnology.net/2013/02/the-1970s-global-cooling-alarmism.html
P.S. Please note article from Dec. 4th, 1974: ” Pollution could spur on Ice Age, NASA says”. Well, good old NASA ….
Hello Ms. Willmann,
I am the current student’s Sustainability Officer at Acadia University. I am in my fourth year taking Environmental Science. It is challenging for me as a student to have a member of the Acadia community attempt to disprove all that I am learning in class. We learn all about the ‘merchants of doubt’ in our courses, how the fossil fuel industries have known for 20 years that human activity is largely causing the increase of carbon dioxide and that is harmful to not only the planet but our survival as a species- but they chose to pay off scientists so they could continue to make money. Some of your references in your first article are among the ‘scientists’ who have turned to the business of climate scepticism.
I know that climate change is scary, I know that the guilt and fear can often turn into denial. Although I do not agree with alarmism language I also truly believe at this point this is cause for alarm. Continuing to argue that professors like Dr. David Shutler and the rest of the science faculty aren’t able to see the truth of climate change is frankly disrespectful. They have spent their lives dedicated to bringing the world’s fundamental truths to light.
I would be very happy to talk to you about this in person Mr. Willmann, my office hours are 1:30 to 4:30 pm in room 628 in the old student’s union building. I’m sure we could also arrange for you to come to a few classes if you are genuinely interested in learning rather than just opposing.
I hope this helps,
P.S. Please watch the movie “Merchants of Doubt”, it is on netflix.