My favourite (living) astrophysicist, Neil De Grasse Tyson – an excellent communicator of scientific principles – has a saying that too many people: “know enough about their subject to think they are right but not enough to know when they are wrong”. This fits perfectly with the arguments put forward by climate change denialists.
Arguments such as: water vapour is the strongest greenhouse gas; it’s all due to Milankovitch cycles; it’s solar activity – sun spots; the concentration of CO2 is too small to have any effect; the models are unreliable etc. etc.
These clearly demonstrate Neil’s principle. The users of these arguments have a little knowledge of the subject they espouse to understand (probably picked up from a conversation with another denialist or by selective reading on the internet) and then justify their beliefs by quoting the same old discredited rubbish we’ve been hearing for decades.
Do they really understand the full scientific story of water vapour versus CO2? Obviously, if they are still using the argument they are unaware of what scientists call feedback loops – in this case, an increase in CO2 causes warming which adds more water vapour to the atmosphere which enhances the greenhouse effect. Do they not know that water vapour disappears quickly from the atmosphere whereas CO2 hangs around for a very long time?
They read that Milankovitch cycles have a connection with glacials and interglacials, but do deniers know what the cycles are and that the major one effecting change has a cycle of 100,000 years? Do they not appreciate that the 200 years since the industrial revolution is a little bit less than 100,000? Have they no appreciation of time intervals at all?
Of course, our denialist will point to the evidence referred to by a “qualified” scientist who makes the claim that his/her research is being ignored or ridiculed. Generally speaking such so called “scientific research” is never peer reviewed and is far too often funded by the fossil fuel industry.
But all of the arguments raised by climate change denialists when put up against the enormous body of work produced by climate scientists and can be reduced to a few very basic allegations as follows:
1 the scientists working on climate change are unaware of the factors raised in arguments against anthropogenic global warming
2 these scientists do not understand the effects of the issues raised or
3 they understand the effects but for one reason or another hide the evidence and give misleading advice. In other words, there is a global conspiracy amongst scientists to mislead the world.
All of these allegations are of course spurious and it is difficult to understand how the denialists can be so out of touch as to think that one or other of these basic allegations can really apply and that they know better. Back again to Neil De Grasse Tyson, and if you’re a climate denialist who cannot appreciate Neil’s principle then let me ask the question the other way around. “Do you know enough about the subject you are quoting to know when you are wrong – or only enough to think you may be right.”
Now do you get it? Probably not.
*the author is a resident of Metung