It’s not often that I’ll go the “I told you so route”, but this time it seems appropriate towards Richard Tol. Though maybe also a thank you might be in order with how decisive scientists rebutted Tol’s nonsensus. But before I go into that, a bit of context is needed.
The release of documents that showed Willie Soon receiving funding from vested interests has created quite a lot of chatter on the internet and in the media. The initial article in the New York Times Deeper Ties to Corporate Cash for Doubtful Climate Researcher that broke this story is in my opinion quite good.
To quote John Reisman, “Science is not a democracy. It is a dictatorship. It is evidence that does the dictating.” It’s this evidence based ‘dictatorship’ that is the basis for a scientific consensus. Based on this ‘dictatorship’ of evidence we know that global warming is real, we’re causing it, and that it’s a problem if we don’t act. This presents a real problem for those denying that there is a problem or want to minimize the consequences.
Guest article written by Holly Vesco.
We’ve all heard the question, and perhaps even asked it ourselves, “Just how do scientists know that?” The question is innocent enough, but all too often it’s asked with a sense of distrust and even with a touch of condescension. Honestly, with or without the skepticism, it’s a question worth asking and answering.
It’s perfectly fine to ask how science knows what it knows and to have a desire to understand how the evidence supports the conclusions scientists come to. Those kind of questions are actually a large part of what peer-review does. The type of skepticism that I take issue with (the kind this article is addressing) is different, it doesn’t allow people to follow the facts, but to distort the them to fit their previously held beliefs. This way of thinking turns the question “how can they know that?” into a declaration of “they can’t know that!” That version of skepticism is not true skepticism, but instead it’s just a fancy way of saying, “I don’t like it, so it’s not true.”
Scientists are sceptical and questioning by their very nature. They love to poke and prod everything to see if it withstands scrutiny. So when scientists agree this is a sign that a question was investigated thoroughly and based on the evidence scientists then have an answer they can agree on.
This makes a scientific consensus the biggest threat to the denial of any scientific fact. Hence you see the “there’s no consensus” mantra on subjects like evolution, GMO safety, and of course global warming and climate change. That’s why studies like Oreskes 2004, Doran 2009, Anderegg 2010, Cook 2013, and Verheggen 2014 are targets for climate science deniers:
The biggest threat to the denial of any scientific fact is evidence showing that there is a scientific consensus. Scientists are sceptical and questioning by their very nature. They love to poke and prod everything to see if it withstands scrutiny.
When scientists agree this is a sign that some serious prodding has ensued and that the evidence withstood it. That’s why studies like Oreskes 2004, Doran 2009, Anderegg 2010, and Cook 2013 showing that scientists agree the planet is warming and that we’re causing it are such a threat to science denial. Which then make them a prime target for attacks, I have more than enough articles on this website chronicling the attacks on just the Cook 2013 paper.
Guest article written by Scott Mandia.
Back in January, my wife engaged a climate science doubter on Facebook. Should you consider a similar engagement, consider this: nobody doubts scientists when it comes to gravity or that the Earth revolves around the sun. These theories/laws do not pose a threat so they are widely accepted. Climate change, on the other hand, is perceived as a threat to some because they fear the solutions might result in loss of individual rights or hurt the economy. It is because of these perceived threats that they subconsciously resist the settled science.
During the AGU Fall Meeting I had the honor of working with Peter Sinclair of Climate Denial Crock of the Week and John Cook of Skeptical Science, interviewing an amazing line-up of scientists and science communicators. I’m floored by who we interviewed and could have a chat with. Everyone brought their A game which gave us some incredible footage (you can find all the videos in the AGU 2014 video archive, they’ll be added as they’re released).
A lot of this footage you’ll also see in the upcoming Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) from The University of Queensland. The Denial101x MOOC will launch in April 2015 on the EdX platform. Registration has opened so you can register for free.
The session I went to today was Understanding Why People Reject Sound Scientific Information and How Scientists Can Respond which was held at Moscone South from 10:20 AM – 12:20 PM. The session started with an introduction by Ann Reid, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education.
Though I do know that John Cook was present for the talk Scientists Are from Mars, Laypeople Are from Venus: An Evidence-Based Approach to Consensus Messaging. It was a great talk summarizing the science behind consensus messaging and how effective it is.