Global Warming and the Anti-Science Right

The report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change presents the current scientific consensus on climate change and global warming finding the evidence for it is “unequivocal” and that human activity is the main cause. Some people have a vested interest in denying the science and they are scrambling for ways to get people to ignore the scientific findings. I previously noted the attempt by a right wing think tank with ties to the oil industry to circumvent the normal peer review process and bribe scientists to dispute the findings. If they can’t get enough scientists to go along, The American Thinker presents a creative but specious attack for a different direction.

While the argument is totally devoid of rationality, it is worth mentioning both for its creativity and for the total lack of understanding of science frequently characterizes the right wing. They try role reversal, attempting to characterize those who believe in global warming as the religious fanatics. They argue that religion is hard wired into our brains, and that when religious belief is “subverted” it is replaced by something else, playing to the conservative belief that only tree-hugging liberals, all of whom in their viewpoint are anti-religion, believe in global warming. From here they argue that environmentalism is a pseudo-religion, and that all religion must have an apocalypse, such as the dire predictions of global warming, as they project their intellectual shortcomings on others.

The fallacy here is that I don’t “believe” in global warming in the sense that people “believe” in various religious teachings without evidence. Matters of science are not based upon an individual’s personal beliefs. Instead I accept the scientific method and the conclusions reached when it is used. I believe in global warming because this represents the consensus of scientific belief. While religious beliefs are not subject to refutation, opinions based upon science are. Should other evidence (in peer reviewed publications–not opinions obtained with bribes) show otherwise I have no aversion to changing my view on global warming. I would prefer that the problems predicted by global warming not occur, but we cannot ignore the consequences because we would prefer that they not be real.

If scientific predictions based upon the belief in global warming should turn out to be erroneous then the idea will need to either be revised or thrown out. In contrast, those who do not believe in global warming do so for reasons unrelated to science, and therefore no amount of evidence, such as that which has been presented in the IPCC report, will change their minds. It is the people who disbelieve in global warming who are actually exhibiting pseudo-religious beliefs, not those who accept the scientific findings.

Such anti-scientific belief is seen in many areas on the right, including their belief in intelligent design over evolution, disbelief in geology when it conflicts with biblical predictions as to the age of the earth (including claims that the Grand Canyon was created in the biblical flood as opposed to by geological forces), and claims of fetal pain before this is biologically possible to support their opposition to abortion.

Even the Bush White House is no longer willing to go along with the right wing fanatics in disputing the scientific evidence for global warming as is seen in this White House statement:

“This Summary for Policymakers captures and summarizes the current state of climate science research and will serve as a valuable source of information for policymakers,” said Dr. Sharon Hays, the leader of the U.S. delegation at the meeting and Associate Director/Deputy Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “It reflects the sizeable and robust body of knowledge regarding the physical science of climate change, including the finding that the Earth is warming and that human activities have very likely caused most of the warming of the last 50 years.”

When George Bush’s White House has abandoned a right wing idea all that is left is the lunatic fringe.


  1. 1
    William R. Stout, Jr. says:

    First, let’s define the term “consensus”. Simply put, it merely means a majority opinion. Further, the IPCC said that they were 90% sure that man was responsible for this problem. That is an interesting statement when you consider the implications. Would you trust your family’s life to a 90% safety margin for a flight? I doubt it. However, it seems that many people want to assign the IPCC assertions to the level of incontrovertible truth.

    That the IPCC is hedging its bets, is telling. During the last decade, predictions have ranged from the Earths temperature rising to a maximum of 7 degrees Fahrenheit to becoming, as Dr. Stephen Hawking put it, another Venus. Computer predictions in regard to global warming have been off by as much as 400%. Time estimates for action has ranged from 10 to 50 years and there is current research that indicates water vapor is far more efficient a green house gas than is CO2. If this were not enough, some climatologists have stated that if every nation of the world had adopted the Kyoto protocols, the best we could hope for is a 0.7 degree F. change in temperature.

    To make matters more problematic, we do not know if the current warming trend is natural or man made. Similar periods in history indicate that similar warming trends occurred 480K years ago and again in the middle ages. The IPCC has not explained how these events occurred, but I suspect that there were few SUVs on the road in those days.

    Additionally, scientific fraud and outright lies about previous environmental issues has greatly complicated the data and people like me are now doubly suspicious as a result. While one could argue that it is better to err on the side of caution, such action will result in trillions of dollars in cost and a punitive tax burden. Further, if the current climate change is natural, what will be the effect of interrupting the cycle and should we attempt to change it? To my knowledge, that question has never been asked.

    This may be 2007, but our knowledge of planetary systems is very primitive and before you go tinkering around with them, it would be wise to actually know what you are doing. If you doubt that, track the weatherman’s predictions for a month and see what his record is for your local area. Then expand that to the rest of the planet and perhaps you will see why the IPCC is hedging.

    And you wonder why the conservatives are dubious.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    “And you wonder why the conservatives are dubious.”

    No, I don’t wonder at all. Conservatives don’t believe because it is inconvenient to their ideological beliefs.

    Of course the scientific predictions can’t say anything with 100% certainty. That’s because we are dealing with scientists who are looking at the facts and forming an honest assessment, as opposed to the conservatives who just disregard the facts because it isn’t convenient.

    “Would you trust your family’s life to a 90% safety margin for a flight?” That is hardly an honest analogy. The real analogy is that we have a 10% safety margin by ignoring the science. By your logic we are risking our survival on a 10% chance.

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    To add to the above, a consensus statement is not merely a majority opinion. That suggests that there is a meaningful minority which disagree. Consensus statements such as this represnt the views of scientists researching the issue and a consensus statement is not released if there is not general agreement. The lack of an opposing scientific viewpoint is why the oil industry is seeking to bribe scientists to support their viewpoint.

    A consensus statement such as this is only released when athere is good date available, which is the case (as oppose to your claim that the knowledge is primative). Claiming lack of scientific knowlege is just another way to deny the science to support a political viewpoint. Comparing overall climate prediction to a daily weather forcast is yet another way to obfuscate the issue and attempt to ignore the real science.

    Getting back to your airline analogy, the true analogy to global warming would be if a panel of aviation experts were to inspect a plane and say that if flown it will crash unless repairs are made, with a 90% chance the crash will be due to human error. On the other side, think tanks financed by the airline industry, who don’t want to pay the cost of the repairs, say to ignore those experts that the plane is safe. They even try to pay off some aviation experts to say the plane is safe. Would you fly on that plane?

    The risk of ignoring such a consensus statement is just too great when the only objections coming are not from the scientific community but originate from those with a financial or political incentive to ignore the science. The credibilty of conservatives who take this position is also weakend by the numerous other positons common among conservatives which are contrary to fact.

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