Sunday, January 6, 2012
With so much talk about the fiscal cliff and a whole bunch of other stuff I don't understand, I've been reading the newspaper and watching some news stations. And as I did this, I came across several articles on various aspects of climate change, particularly with policy-making in Washington. I didn't come across anything too groundbreaking, but reading the articles made me think about the huge discrepancy in the way scientists view global warming andthe way politicians view global warming.
When it comes to global warming, climate scientists are the most knowledgeable on what is happening, why it is happening, and what we can do about it. In my opinion, a politician's goal when dealing with global warming is to take the scientific evidence into account, and find a way to mitigate global warming by drawing on their socioeconomic knowledge. This way, the scientists and politicians are working together, each in their respective area of expertise. It makes sense that this would be the most efficient and productive way to solve any sort of problem.
On my previous blog, I posted a pie chart that sampled 13.950 peer-reviewed, academic articles from 1991-2012 about the issue of climate change, and 24 of them rejected global warming. I decided to look further into the topic of the scientific consensus of global warming, and I stumbled across this article: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/06/04/1003187107.full.pdf+html. The abstract states that the authors studied a dataset of 1,372 climate researchers and their publication and citation data, and came to two major to conclusions. First, 97-98% of scientists that are most active in the field of climatology support the ideas held by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the "relatve climate expertise and scientific prominence of the researchers unconvinced of ACC (Anthropogenic Climate Change) are substantially below that of the convinced researchers." The second claim is pretty brazen, but the main point here is that the vast majority of climatologists believe in ACC.
It seems to me like a reasonable politician would acknowledge that there is a strong scientific consensus about climate change, and try and work out a plan for mitigating it with the help of economists, climatologists, sociologists, etc. I know very little about the political structure of our state and national governments, this is just my opinion.
I looked online for some statistics about the percentage of congressional members in DC that disagree with the IPCC's opinion on climate change, but I couldn't find any. However, I do remember a sizable number of Republican presidential candidates denying climate change over the past year. Herman Cain said "I do not believe global warming is real" (I remember this from watching the Daily Show... that's the best way to learn what's happening around the world), and Rick Santorum said "Absolutely not, I don't believe in that" when asked about evolution (also got this from the Daily Show). In a 2009 Fox Business interview, Ron Paul said "the greatest hoax I think that has been around in many, many years if not hundreds of years has been this hoax on the environment and global warming." Ron Paul based his statement on the fact that the Earth is warming in some parts and cooling in others, which is true (although there is way more warming than cooling).
But when it comes to a scientific theory, I think politicians should let the scientists do their work, and then work together with them to conjure up some ideas to tackling the problem. For a politician to deny global warming and not back up their denial with science is pretty darn immature. That's like me accusing my roommate of eating all my protein bars, but not having any evidence to back it up. Heck, in the face of so much scientific consensus on global warming, it's like ignoring a hypothetical surveillance camera that showed my roommate minding his own business, and having some strange, unknown pest steal my protein bars. Who knows what lives in these dorms...
I love Al Gore's title for his movie, "An Inconvenient Truth." I have a feeling that many Americans deny global warming because it is convenient to do so. It's a lot easier to continue to use fossil fuels instead of investing in alternative fuel sources. People don't want to give up their Dodge Rams with V-8 Hemi engines, they don't want to stop eating beef, and they especially don't want to stop watching playoff football games on Sundays when their team is playing. I can understand that last one... today's game was great. Because some of the public doesn't want to change their lifestyle because of a theorized ecological crisis, politicians conform to the opinion of the people to try and win votes and gain popularity. The public opinion, in turn, is strongly influenced by influential politicians. It's definitely a vicious cycle.
I'm taking a class on water usage and society this quarter (starting tomorrow!), so I'll learn more about the interactions between scientists and politicians. I guess all I'm trying to say is that we, as a planet, need to work together to get our goals accomplish, and utilize the strengths of different groups of people to make the most progress. We shouldn't have politicians denying global warming when they don't know the science behind it. Scientists and politicians need to work together on this issue. I look forward to learning more about the relationships between scientific theories and the scientific opinions held by various political leaders in the future... it is a very interesting (albeit, often frustrating) subject.
We'll have a pretty vigorous storm come in Tuesday, and after that we could be talking about *pockets* of snow. No big snow events on the horizon. I'll post more about the forecast tomorrow.