I am agnostic on the theory of anthropogenic-caused global warming. The true believers on both sides find this position unacceptable. Ironically, the most hysterical reactions have come from the true believers in global warming who have, without any apparent thought, labelled persons like myself as “deniers,” and as being opposed to science.
The believers ask, how could a person question what is so obvious? Hypotheses abound. The nonbeliever is stupid. If not stupid, then uneducated. If not uneducated, then paid off by greedy people who apparently would destroy us all for a few bucks.
One would hope that open-minded acolytes of science and logic could come up with better hypotheses.
Recently, I found a news source which prided itself for presenting a moderate view of topics. The online responses tended to be more thoughtful and from fewer mean-spirited trolls who have mistaken nastiness for intelligence.
The source published an article questioning the role of CO2 in global warming. The article acknowledged the earth has warmed, but attributed it to factors other than CO2. It questioned the idea that human behavior was the prime determinate of global climate change. Even though the article centered on research from several disciplines, it was positioned in the opinion section of the publication.
The responses to the article were instructive.
In typical fashion, there were calls for censorship. “It saddens me to see the (news source) publish such an article, because the science of man-made climate change is now virtually indisputable.”
Others fell back on stereotypes, “A big steaming pile of made up twisted information, by people whose salaries depend on defending the climate destroying actions of big energy companies and their rich investors.”
This argument, of course, cuts both ways. Try to get a government research grant for a study questioning global warming.
Those on the opposing side were equally emphatic. One stated that, “Man cannot change weather anymore than a dog can build a car.”
The majority of the responses, however, were well-thought out and actually quite informative. The deniers’ arguments were just as cogent as the true believers’. One difference appeared to be how authoritarian the arguments were. The true believers put more faith in what “scientists say.”
The reason I use the term “agnostic” to describe my position is summed up by one reader who wrote, “Climate change is not a science, it's a religion.” Climate change was postulated by science, so the statement could be modified to read, “Climate change is a research hypothesis to which many have reacted as if it were a religion.”
This is unfortunate because the topic is so important, but science should not be a religion, and when science is mixed with politics, we get, as Carl Popper stated, something akin to astrology.
Both sides are guilty of preconceived bias. The true believers can be as irrational as the deniers. A recent study found a connection between human activity and extreme weather. The research was criticized by a scientist for not establishing a link between temperatures and atmospheric moisture, and for computer simulations that didn’t take into account subtle changes in climate and oceans.
So it appears as if these concerns call into doubt the findings of the study. Not so fast. The scientist’s preconceived beliefs drove him to interpret this in exactly the opposite manner. He said these research problems created, “...a particular danger when it comes to studies that find no link to human activities.”
In other words, finding flaws in the research supporting warming doesn’t call into question the idea of global warming, it only explains why they haven’t found more evidence for global warming.
This will not make many friends, but anyone who claims that anthropogenic climate change is a given fact, or a given falsehood, is being remarkably naïve.
Dennis Clayson is a business professor at the University of Northern Iowa. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not reflect those of the University of Northern Iowa.