Real Science and Climate Change

Recently a ‘friend’ shared an article from a climate change denier on my facebook page and called it ‘real science’. Somewhat bemused I asked what he meant by ‘real science’ and after a quick scan of his quite detailed and complicated article on the ‘carboniferous age’ added that the article was suspicious and concluded that the findings were wrong. In his case the ‘real science’ is that which he wanted to believe – a case of wishful thinking.

Everyman and his dog can have a blog or webpage on the net (yours truly included) to promote their views and hopefully facts. This means there is a vast range of accessible material from the factual, valid and important to the lies, distortions, misinformation (alternative facts?) obscure information and even an array of conspiracy theories. The misinformation on climate change is part of a process, often deliberate, to ‘muddy the waters’ creating confusion and doubt. What then constitutes ‘real science’ and does ‘real science’ exist?

I am not qualified to answer this question. What I do know is that science is not fixed and that there is often debate in the scientific community about various aspects of a phenomenon. Every aspect of a statement, claim or experiment must be verifiable or repeatable. Climate science covers an array of disciplines and in general the findings of these various fields complement one another. Before a paper is published in a journal it usually goes through a rigorous process of peer review where various aspects of it are examined by relevant experts in their fields and suggestions, alterations and even rejections are made. The journal itself should be the product of a creditable organisation or university and its high standing is dependent on the continued veracity of the papers it publishes.

As a layman I am working at a very basic level to try to clarify and simplify the problem for ‘Joe Blow’. Everybody has an opinion on the weather and often confuses it with climate. We are all weather experts with our anecdotal accounts. Possibly we have been influenced by a criminal media campaign originating with vested interests such as Exxon. Also the idea that a harmful and threatening climate change is not happening fits comfortably with our beliefs and hopes for the future.

But the question of whether you ‘believe’ in climate change is absurd. It is either happening or not. Why do we have an opinion on climate science but leave flying, heart surgery, the workings of our computers and mobile phones and a vast array of other complicated practices to the experts and do not question them?  The public perception that there is a debate about climate change is false. In the specialised climate science community – that is those that know what they are talking about – more than 97.5% accept the fact of human induced global warming. I suspect the real figure is even higher.