Questionable Motives

December 2, 2009

Staying open to skepticism in the global warming debate

Filed under: belief,Criticism,Global Warming,Media,Religion,Science,Skepticim — tildeb @ 2:17 pm

Climate change and global warming are important areas of research. But do greenhouse gas emissions actually drive climate change to the extent that by controlling the former means controlling the latter? This is the tenuous and all too common assumption that I think undermines the science of climatology and turns it into more of a religious debate between believers and non-believers. And like most debates between believers and non-believers, it is fascinating how the language to describe those who lean one way or the other becomes loaded. I have been labeled as a global warming denier because I question how much control over climate change we will achieve by controlling our greenhouse gas emissions. All too often, I am sent pictures of climate change as if they prove the evils of burning fossil fuels. This approach is not skeptical: it is one-sided and loaded by a strong whiff of righteous belief. At the core is the confusion between what global warming means compared and contrasted with what climate change means. These are not interchangeable terms and we would do well to remember that. In addition, let’s remember that skepticism is an important tool against confirmation bias no matter which side of the debate we may be on.

I’m not trying to suggest that climate change isn’t a real threat, or that scientists are deliberately hyping it. But when they look at evidence of the threat, they may be subject to the confirmation bias — seeing trends that accord with their preconceptions and desires. Given the huge stakes in this debate — the trillions of dollars that might be spent to reduce greenhouse emissions — it’s important to keep taking skeptical looks at the data. How open do you think climate scientists are to skeptical views, and to letting outsiders double-check their data and calculations? From the NY Times here.

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2 Comments »

  1. Saw your comments at Open Parachute and came over to find out who dared to talk about global warming skepticism at Ken’s place. It’s good to meet you!

    Comment by Scott W. Somerville — December 2, 2009 @ 5:01 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks for popping by!

    Comment by tildeb — December 2, 2009 @ 5:15 pm | Reply


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