Saturday, May 7, 2016

A New Climate Change Movement

There has been a lot of talk about climate change, and how we need to do everything we can to mitigate it. At the same time, there has been a lot of talk about how the climate is "always changing," and that there's nothing we should or even can do about decreasing our carbon emissions. In the words of Marco Rubio, "I can't pass a law that will change the weather." As this Bernie supporter eloquently states, that approach didn't work out too well for him,

Credit: Tim Murphy for Mother Jones Magazine

If the threat we were facing from climate change had a different name - say, ISIS, or illegal immigration, or democratic socialism, you can bet your bonnet that these crazy Republicans would be doing all they could to mitigate the problem.

Why do I bring this up?

I was having a discussion with some people the other day on climate change and whether it is occurring. Some of the people were skeptics or deniers, but in my opinion, it became clear that their skepticism did not stem from the science itself, but disdain for the media and politicians who supported the scientific consensus on climate change or disseminated alarmist claims. There seemed to be a general hostility towards those who claimed that we were in grave danger from climate change, and a general apathy towards a theorized warmer world in the future. In other words, the debate over a scientific theory was centered around emotion and politics, not science.

Global warming is an interesting subject because it is truly interdisciplinary in scope. Of course, it has the elements associated with the physical sciences, but it also includes elements of psychology on the largest and smallest scales. It is the epitome of the "tragedy of the commons," where one person's actions do not affect the outcome, but the actions of the population as a whole have a tremendous effect. It involves ecology, sociology, engineering, philosophy, and a plethora of other disciplines. And unfortunately, it invokes irrational emotions in lieu of rational, scientific reasoning.

Retrieved from the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank dedicated to questioning the health risks of tobacco and rejecting the scientific consensus on global warming

Not all sides are guilty of such offenses. Scientists are often antagonized by those who have been brainwashed by the conservative media to believe that they are falsifying their data for their own financial gain, but they are some of the most unbiased people out there when it comes to climate change. They let their results drive their conclusions. Of course, there are a couple notorious bad apples, but I won't mention them here.

The point of all of this is that the United States has been spectacularly inept in combating climate change. Not only have we not taken swift action in reducing our carbon emissions, we have an entire political party and a large section of the media dedicated to denying climate change altogether. On the other side, many media outlets, politicians, and environmental organizations overstate the dangers of climate change and attribute climate change to every bad thing happening in the world. Both parties pick and choose facts to support their agenda instead of letting the facts speak for themselves, although the GOP is worse. They let their policy pick and choose the data, instead of letting the data inform their policy.

So, I'm proposing a new, revolutionary climate movement! I call this movement "Climate Realism." I'm open to suggestions if anybody has any different ideas. And just to clarify, there are some organizations (such as the Heartland Institute) which state that "climate realism" is being skeptical or denying global warming is caused by humans. This is not what I am talking about, as those claims are completely wrong.

Climate Realism involves something that too many climate change organizations (on both sides of the issue) overlook: the scientific method.

Credit: Wikipedia User ArchonMagnus

Most of you are probably familiar with the scientific method. You observe what's going on with the world, think of interesting questions, make hypotheses, test and refine your hypotheses, and make conclusions, either as part of an ongoing cycle or just once. If you are using the scientific method to test if dry balsa wood floats on water for a 3rd grade science project, you probably don't need to run through the method several hundred times. It floats. However, with a phenomenon like global warming, we will keep running through the scientific method to learn more and more about global warming. We are constantly observing the world around us, and we are constantly forming new hypotheses and conclusions about how global warming.

The principal goal of climate realism is to think critically about the environment and our effects on it. This is something that the mainstream media is not very good at, either by ignorance or (more likely) ignoring the science for their own financial gain. For example, a lot of news outlets reported that Hurricane Sandy was a direct result of global warming, and I even saw an article that said that Chris Christie mainly accepted global warming but he was still somewhat of a denier based on the fact that he disagreed with the notion that Sandy was caused by global warming. Without getting into the details, Sandy was caused by a myriad of unlikely factors coming together at the perfect time; the "perfect storm" if you will. Besides, no weather event is directly attributable to global warming - the climate system is far more complex than that.

However, in this way of thinking, people would be encouraged to think about how much global warming contributed to Sandy's strength, and whether Sandy is a good example of weather events with a high percentage of global warming influence or a low percentage of global warming influence. If we started seeing more Aprils like the one we just had, that would likely be more attributable to global warming than North America having a cold winter. Why do you think they call it global warming?

But wait - some studies show that Antarctica has been cooling, so surely that must be evidence that global warming is hogwash? Well, a climate realist would not simply jump to conclusions, and if they did enough research, they'd find that the cooling was due to another man-made atmospheric perturbation - the creation of the ozone hole. The ozone hole has been shrinking since CFCs were banned, and as it does so, Antarctica will warm dramatically just like the rest of the world. Besides, some studies have shown that Antarctica is not cooling, and recent studies show that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is unstable and could contribute far more to sea-level-rise than we previously imagined.

Climate realism also seeks to avoid sensationalist claims or fear-mongering. Many environmental organizations such as have overstated the dangers of climate change in an attempt to encourage people to do the right thing. Unfortunately, these attempts often backfire, as conservative news outlets and politicians often point to their inaccurate claims and predictions to show that climate change is in fact a hoax.

To sum it up, with this new climate change movement, science leads the way for policy and discussion. Politics don't determine the science behind climate change, but the state of our climate determines what we should do about it. It seems like common sense, but most politicians and the mainstream media don't care much for common sense.

I'm sorry for being so tardy on this blog; it is because I am working on developing a new, personal weather website with Wordpress software. I am awfully slow at it but I am learning a lot along the way, and as I learn more I'll be able to further customize and spruce up the site. I hope to have a rough version up in the next week or so.

Thanks for reading!