The Two Types of Climate Skeptic

12 January 2015
There's two types of climate change skeptic you see in the depressingly frequent "debates" on this issue.

The first lot aim for an (non-warming) air of legitimacy, with sites such as Watts Up With That and the very official sounding Non-Governmental Panel on Climate Change. They have their celebrity spokespeople such as Lord Monckton, and their own science too, with claims of manipulated figures, heavy use of phrases such as "anthropogenic", "natural cycles" and "global cooling", claims climate scientists are only in it for the money, and of course the oft-repeated claim that global warming stopped in 1998. (And it's always adorable when online commentators lose track of how many years it's been). They're a small group with a hell of a lot of funding on their side.

The second lot, though...they make no pretence at evidence or credibility; they simply don't see the need. They say things like "well I don't think the world is getting hotter I remember very hot days when I was a child but people call you dumb for having a different opinion!" (there's usually more than just one exclamation point, but I'll spare you). When I first heard someone say "climate change is rubbish, I remember lots of hot days when I was younger", I actually thought it was a joke, but it's true; these people honestly think their memories and anecdotes are equivalent to the weight of scientific evidence, that one can have feelings and opinions on scientific facts. John Oliver said it best:

I wouldn't care, except that these people vote, and they helped to vote in a government with a disastrous record on the environment, and they are utterly incapable of understanding why this is wrong. Where has the education system fallen down that the most basic concepts of logic and deduction are beyond these people?

It's hard to say which group are worse. The ideologue brigade, for all their money and influence, are thankfully dismissed as kooks by most in the media and government. The "I knows what I knows" crowd might actually be worse, unshakable in their convictions that they are entitled to an opinion on climate change and the whole thing is bunk by so-called experts whose doctoral degrees aren't worth anything compared to memories of hot days in childhood. There will always be lots of stupid people, and in Australia they're compelled to vote, and we see the disastrous results (God help us all if the libertarian anti-vaccination movement gets traction).

What we need is better education. Not just the kind of teaching climate science as fact which leads to howls of "brainwashing!" from the right, but education on the basic concepts of logic and deduction, how to distinguish opinion from evidence, feelings from facts. This would have other benefits, too - how do people who can't distinguish emotion and logic serve on juries, for instance? Alas, this change to the curriculum is unlikely to happen under the current government - and until that changes, on this and so many other matters, god help us.


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