Climate Science, Denialism and Scepticism

Recently the blog by Tom Moore on Climate Denialists* attracted some criticism. It became obvious fairly quickly that the main critic fitted into Tom’s ‘climate denier’ category himself. Amongst other things he committed the standard error of a denier in ‘cherry picking’ his sources. The underlying ‘anger’ in his response was another. But two points he made are worth answering. The first was that as he had scientific training he implied that he knew better than others. The second was that the author of the blog ‘did not understand the scientific process’.

The first can be easily dismissed as he appeared to be denying or ignoring some parts of the ‘scientific process’ himself such as the basic physics of the greenhouse effect which has withstood the rigours of the science for more than 100 years. Or the fact that knowledge itself is a series of building blocks which we are continually adding to or modifying based on observation, measurement and experimentation. His second criticism is more important and appears to be confusing the term ‘denialism’ with ‘scepticism’.

‘Denialism’ is prevalent among many of our politicians and a select band of journalists operating under the banner of the Murdoch media.** This coterie either denies or ignores the logic of the greenhouse effect and the well-established consequences of increasing greenhouse gases. They ignore the overwhelming evidence that has been collected over the last 30 years that confirms the dire predictions of our own CSIRO scientists in the 1980s on bushfires, drought and other extreme weather events.

However critical ‘scepticism’ is an important part of the scientific method. In science the aim is to disprove a hypothesis and the hypothesis then is disproved, modified or becomes accepted over time. For those interested in an understanding of climate change and science in more detail I recommend this article by Andrew Gunner ‘Convergence: the basis of scientific confidence’.

But an ordinary person does not have to have scientific training to acknowledge or trust the science. We do it every day. We go to a qualified doctor when we are sick and trust the pilot when we are flying. If we are concerned about the power of the denialists in politics and the media then we need to be critical of where we get our information from – accredited and reliable sources like the CSIRO, the BOM or the various universities across the country.

We also need to way up the vast amount of evidence that has been accumulated by science and weather bureaus around the planet. Accurate measurement and observation being another essential part of the ‘scientific process’. And then inform our politicians that we want them to take note of what science has been saying for a long time and act upon it.

* I try not to waste too much energy on ‘denialism’. But occasionally a blog sneaks in. See here.

**To answer many of the myths, ‘red herrings’ and other denialist claims go to the sceptical science website.