Why people are sceptical about climate change
They used to claim "the science is over". Not so much these days. As the IPCC prepares to release a new report, reflect on what that tells you about the debate over climate change
"The science is over". Remember that line? There was a time when that angry and arrogant (not to say delusional) mantra about climate change was something you couldn't get away from. It was complemented with the charge that anyone questioning the scientific "consensus" was a "denier" -- a word more commonly used in the wider political discourse about those twisted individuals and groups that refuse to accept the historical reality of the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews.
If the charge of flat-headed anti-scientific stupidity coupled with neo-Nazi-type tendencies didn't suffice to close down the debate, the sceptic must (it was, and continues to be, alleged) be in the pay of the oil and coal lobby. Honest disagreement, most particularly about the certainty of it all, was ruled out of court.
Standing back and adopting a purely neutral stance, that was always a dangerous strategy to adopt. All it would take to unsettle the confidence of the public would be a series of unexpected developments in the trajectory of the climate. And that is exactly what has happened.
In the 1990s, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- which releases a key, new document this week -- was arguing that the climate would warm by 0.15 degrees Celsius per decade. Even by the most generous estimates it has only risen since then at a third of that rate. In reality, over the last decade and a half there has been no net global warming at all.
Reference to such inconvenient truths sends the climate alarmists apoplectic with rage. That's because the scientific evidence has shown just how unscientific their claims to certainty really were. Not to put too fine a point on it, they look like fools.
Yet they seem incapable of learning from their mistakes. The IPCC is arguing that they are 95 percent certain that the planet is warming due to man-made activities. But, in scientific terms, 95 percent is no more a proof than 19.5 percent or 9.5 percent. It still means you can't prove it.
There are other rather significant problems. The current warming cycle began around the turn of the last century. Of the net warming up to the current time -- approximately 0.9 degrees Celsius -- around a third of that happened before industrial activity was widespread enough to have been the causal factor. So what kicked it all off? The scientifically and intellectually honest answer is: "We don't know."
The underlying problem is that the climate change agenda was hijacked from very early on by Leftist ideologues who needed new certainties after what for them was the disaster of ending up on the loser's side at the end of the Cold War. This injected an absolutism into the climate change agenda that effectively ruined the prospects of a serious and sober discussion.
And that may turn out to be more than a pity. If there really is a serious threat to the planet, man-made or otherwise, we plainly need to address it.
Telling people that the "science is over" when it manifestly wasn't, has only turned people off from doing that.
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