Saturday, February 20, 2010

Skepticism versus denialism

Don't call yourself a Global Warming skeptic, even if you are one. That is, don't call yourself one unless you're happy with getting lumped in the same boat as all the Global Warming deniers. I learned this recently when I posted a Facebook status update about this, and I got people "agreeing" with me about how they didn't think that there was much to it either.

Why do I call myself a skeptic? I do so because unlike a lot of people, I'm willing to admit that I don't completely understand the whole thing. Also, I don't know if I can believe everything that I hear from those who are saying that we human beings are having an impact on climate change. Don't misunderstand me; it's not that I don't think that we're having an impact. I just don't believe EVERY SINGLE THING that they say. Getting back to the whole bit about me not understanding it completely though, I think that's the most important reason why I consider myself a skeptic.

The thing is, I'm a skeptic about everything else, and I think that should be the default position when it comes to anything that you don't feel as though you completely understand. Still, I've realized that you can't use that word without being lumped in with the deniers. And let me tell you something, if anything ever makes me a true believer, it will be the lame-ass arguments of the deniers.

No doubt you may have heard of some of this "climate-gate" stuff that's been going on. Much of it is deafeningly stupid, consisting of arguments like, "Global warming can't be real because it's cold right now!" As I said, I don't completely understand the whole thing, but anybody who makes that sort of an argument knows even less than I do. Since when was "it will never be cold again!" part of the whole Global Warming process?

Then there's a matter of certain scientists fudging (or supposedly fudging) data in order to make things look more dire than they really are. From what I can tell, some scientists have indeed screwed up. However, that hardly means that the entire science behind Global Warming is now completely debunked! Honestly, this reminds me of the anti-evolution crowd, where they point to a few hoaxes in the fossil record as a way of completely debunking the entire fossil record. It's like finding a typo in the dictionary and declaring the English langue to be a hoax.

I guess what I need is another word. I can't be a skeptic without being thought of as a denier. How about "Only Mostly Convinced"?


Nolan said...

You keep saying you don't understand it. Have you seen "An Inconvenient Truth"? It does a pretty good job explaining things. Of course, it's Al Gore's movie, so you shouldn't believe anything in it because he's...evil...or something.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Yeah, I've seen it. I mean, I understand the basics (unlike a lot of people, apparently) but I think that when it comes to the climate and what our involvement is, there's a lot more to it than what he presents in the movie.

I just don't feel as confident with this issue as I do with others - like the evolution versus creation "controversy", for instance.

Matthew said...

This topic is pretty near and dear to my heart. The truth is, I'm pretty disappointed with the public and with the "science community" (whatever that is) for not promoting a little skepticism when it comes to climate change. Unfortunately, the subject has come pretty close to dogma, and I'm not fan of dogma.

I'm unconvinced that humans are causing a catastrophic shift in temperature, and I'm unconvinced that there's nothing to worry about. So, I'm in your boat when it comes to skepticism short of denailism. I've settled on just saying that, "it's hard for me to distinguish the science from the politics when it comes to climate change, and since I'm not an expert in the field, it's difficult for me to critique the science directly." I don't think that makes me a denialist, but it keeps me skeptical... and maybe a bit of a cynic.

Angie said...

I guess I kind of agree with this. But I just can't see, with all the pollution and shit that we do to the Earth, how we COULDN'T be messing it up.

Like with any issue, there's going to be arguments for or against it, and it really is hard to decipher what's right or not, but what's the motivation for scientists to make up the idea of Global Warming? Since the US government and big corporations are obviously not that worried about it, I don't see how these people could benefit from it if there wasn't some truth to it.

From what I understand (in a very simple way), the Earth has natural fluctuations in temperature, so I'm sure what we are seeing is partially because of that; however, we produce so much green house gases it blocks the energy from the sun from leaving our atmosphere once it reflects of the Earth's surface. Also, because light colors (polar ice caps) reflect energy and dark colors (the ocean) absorb it, the more ice and glaciers that melt, the more heat the Earth absorbs in a snowball effect.

My geography teacher Ted Weiden at DVC was probably the smartest person in the field that I've ever talked to about the subject. He has a lot of experience and was a super interesting guy. When I took that class, I learned so much about how the Earth works and global warming made complete sense to me. Of course I can't remember much anymore though lol.

I don't know if this is a crazy suggestion or not but I would highly recommend taking his class. Geography 140. Great stuff.

Nolan said...

What Angie said.