Al Gore did a lot for me last night when "An Inconvenient Truth" won an Oscar for best documentary. We'd just finished watching the movie on DVD. He'd already inspired me to do more to fight global warming.
But my passion was still on simmer. Hearing Gore repeat nine words from the movie raised the heat of my activism:
Driving home from the Academy Awards party where I won the trophy for picking the most winners (including documentary feature and original song, thanks to "An Inconvenient Truth"), I turned on the radio and heard Matt Drudge opining on the Oscars and global warming.
A caller suggested that he should pay more attention to the science of global climate change, rather than base his skeptical view solely on his conservative political beliefs. Drudge replied:
I trust my common sense and conscience rather than the science.
In short, I've become scornful of anyone who refuses to look at the scientific facts. Today's Prickly City comic tells it like I am.
Like I said in my letter to the editor about George Taylor, O.S.U.'s global warming head-in-the-sand climatologist, there's a big difference between skepticism and ignorance.
Skepticism is an integral aspect of the scientific method. Ignorance isn't. If Taylor, or anyone else, doubts the consensus of the world's leading climate researchers that (1) global warming is occurring and (2) humans are largely responsible for it, they need to show why the science is wrong.
If they can't, then they should shut up. What we need is more light on the subject of global climate change, not more people saying, "Put on blinders! Don't look at the facts!"
The science of global warming is akin to the science of evolution. There isn't any significant scientific debate about the basic facts in either area. Yet uninformed doubters love to scream, "Teach the controversy!"
Problem is, there's no controversy. So, nothing to teach.
Greg Hoke has put up a transcript of "An Inconvenient Truth." (a terrific resource; thanks, Greg) For me, one of the most memorable segments in the movie was Gore's bursting of three misconception bubbles. The first is that there's disagreement among scientists about whether the problem of global warming is real or not.
There isn't. Not a bit. Gore says:
Isn't there a disagreement among scientists about whether the problem is real or not? Actually, not really. There was a massive study of every scientific article in a peer reviewed article written on global warming in the last ten years.
They took a big sample of 10 percent, 928 articles. And you know the number of those that disagreed with the scientific consensus that we're causing global warming and that is a serious problem out of the 928: Zero.
The misconception that there is disagreement about the science has been deliberately created by a relatively small number of people. One of their internal memos leaked and here is what it said according to the press. Their objective is to reposition global warming as a theory rather than fact. This has happened before. after the Surgeon General's report [on smoking and lung cancer].
One of their memos leaked 4 years ago. They said, "Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of creating a controversy in the public's mind."
But have they succeeded? You'll remember that there were 928 peer reviewed articles. Zero percent disagreed with the consensus. There was another study of all the articles in the popular press. Over the last fourteen years they listed a sample of 636. More than half of them said, "Well, we are not sure. It could be a problem, may not be a problem." So no wonder people are confused.
Well, I'm determined not to let this blog contribute to the confusion. Regularly I get comments on my George Taylor and global warming posts from people who mouth the right-wing party line: "The science isn't certain."
Open-minded blogger that I am, I typically respond to their uninformed views with a fact-based comment of my own. And I'll probably continue to do that.
But from now on I'm going to do something else. If the global warming skeptic hasn't referenced a peer-reviewed scientific article that supports his or her position, that comment is going to be branded with a reader warning:
Caution: no peer-reviewed scientific evidence is cited here. So be highly doubtful that what is said is anything more than a personal opinion.
There's a lot of room for subjective opinion in the blogosphere. However, when it comes to global climate change, the world can't afford to be distracted by political posturing that masquerades as serious skepticism.
If you believe there's another side to the consensus scientific view of global warming, show it to me. Cite the peer-reviewed journal in which the alternative conclusion appears. Then we can have an informed discussion.
If you can't do that, then you have a choice: either keep your personal opinion to yourself, or accept that your comment on my blog is going to be accompanied with a Caution statement.
You've got a right to express your unscientific beliefs. And I've got a right to be scornful of them.
(Global warming skeptics: a good place to start your re-education is this Scientific American piece, "Are You a Global Warming Skeptic? Part IV." It'll probably tax your brain to read facts rather than politically-inspired blather, but consider this an exercise for your grey matter).