14 July 2008

Climate confusion

Part 3 with Dave's comments

Thirdly you have global warming, and then you have "Man Made global warming" and people start getting defensive if all of a sudden you start blaming them for the impeding end of the world unless "we all change the way we live and our lives now and this is how you do it".
Fourthly you see it in mainstream media now all too much: Everything and anything that is out of the ordinary now has some relationship to global warming, no matter how ridiculous.
So here I sit with 27,000 scientists saying one thing and another 27,000 scoffing at the huliboo. Who do I believe? I have seen calm rational debate from both sides. We've had global warming before. It would seem hard to argue that man hasn't had some effect but to what degree?

Agreed about the media thing. It's one of the things which irritates the scientists who are trying to communicate accurate, careful, correct information. People hear wild claims in the media, and then when we discuss what we really know and how well, we don't get believed (since we're not as extreme as the media reports, it's no story). ('we' by the way doesn't exactly include me. I haven't talked to the media for a long time, and it wasn't about this. Still, I do know folks who get quoted.)

One thing for you to do, with the 27,000 on either side of you, is to start looking at what they're scientists of. It turns out that the 27k saying that climate is changing and part of the reason is human activity are climate scientists, while the 27k disagreeing are doctors, chemists, nuclear physicists, ... But do the checking yourself. There's a petition, for instance, with over 17,000 signers, but very few of them are in climate sciences (but check me on that). If your mechanic says your car needs a new belt, as do the several other mechanics you take the car to, while a bunch of doctors you know say that it doesn't, do you get the belt or not? I get the belt. Being knowledgeable (about something) isn't sufficient; you have to be knowledgeable about the thing at hand.

A different thing, if you encounter folks trying to stampede you into particular actions (whether to avert climate change, or to ignore it) is to put a focus on Where's the science? If they're going on about how if you don't do everything they say 'we're all gonna die', or if they go on about if we do do anything 'we'll all be unemployed', well, no science to either claim. Move on. This is amazingly (depressingly) effective at screening out the stampeders. The very few comments in the vein of 'this is what we understand, therefore the following action would be a good idea' you can study and decide whether you agree.

I do a number of things that are advised for climate change reduction/prevention/etc., not because of any stampeder, but because it saves me money to drive a more efficient car, have a better-insulated house, etc. If it happens that also this does good for the environment, great.


ERV said...

Off topic, but awesome comment.

Robert Grumbine said...

Hi Abbie. Thanks for the good word. I'm not so sure that it's really off topic after all. (Folks, the link Abbie gives is to a comment of mine about stereotypes of scientists.)

The thing is, do we go for the best science -- which may come from people who aren't great looking or polished in front of cameras, or do we go with whoever looks best and sounds flashiest?

I go for the scientists (or the mechanics in my example above) -- the folks who have studied the topic the most and practiced it the most. If they're not movie star-types, well, if I wanted movie stars, I'd be watching a movie.

ERV said...

Penguin-- Youre a guy, so you dont know this :P but I assure you that if you and I got the same make-up/hair/photoshop treatment as real movie stars, no one could tell the difference. Plus, its easy to get practice speaking in front of people if you look for community outreach opportunities!

It doesnt have to be either or ;)

And, youre on a roll. You know, if you get 3 great comments in 3 days, its called a 'turkey'.


Robert Grumbine said...

Maybe let's make it a hat-trick (hockey) instead. Turkey surfaced a lot in my school days, and seldom was about bowling somehow. I left a note over at
your place
now. 3 for 3? :-)

One of the great things about being a guy is that it doesn't matter much how I look. Levels of dress and cleanliness well below what I actually do are sufficient.

Even though I'm a guy, I did know about the makeup/hair/... thing. My secret is: sisters. Lots of sisters (literal and figurative), and for some years now, a daughter and some nieces.

I enjoy talking to people (individually or in groups) about science (well, pretty much anything). And I do so, just not as often as I'd like. Cafe Scientifique Annapolis on the 31st.

Anonymous said...

Hello Bob G., great to see you back. Hmm - from the old sci.env community, Tobis, Sigurdsson, and *Rabett*, are now pretty well established in the blogosphere, and Puchalsky has a pretty good track record in the comments of the blogs that I generally read - is the time coming for rp^2 to emerge ? (I've not been entirely silent, although my profile has been low.)

Robert Grumbine said...

Sorry anon, I missed responding. But yes, I'd like to see rpp to re-appear. As I recall from those now-distant days, he was a good writer, sharp observer, and brought good questions to the table.