5 May 2012

A New Low For The Anti-Science Crowd

Posted by Dan Satterfield


Count me in with Ted along with every major science organisation on the planet.

I’ve no idea what the best way to deal with climate change is, but you should know there are more scientists who think the Moon landing might have been a hoax (~5%) than who think climate change is (<2.5%). This bill board is certainly a new low for the anti-science Heartland crazies, and as the folks at Climate Central put it, “Heartland jumped the shark” with this one.

I’ve written about Heartland’s anti-science activities before here and here. These folks are actively funding attempts to put political beliefs in science classrooms and in some states like TN and LA. they will probably succeed. Those students are in for a shock when (and IF) they get to a university, and it’s worth remembering that students in most other countries are already well ahead of American students in science.

The Plain Facts

For anyone reading this who thinks there is any doubt that adding carbon to the atmosphere will cause the planet to warm up, let me assure you that the science is a rock solid as it gets. Anyone who says otherwise is giving you a political opinion, not a valid scientific one. As Dr. Jim White at the Univ. of Colorado puts it, there are only 3 things that affect the Earth’s temperature:

Temperature predictions from James Hansen in 1981 have been very accurate. The Climate experts at Real Climate have a fascinating summary of it. Click the image to read it.

1. Solar output (it’s been virtually unchanged over the past century and ruled out as the cause of most of the warming)

2. Albedo (how reflective the Earth is). Also virtually unchanged, but climate change itself may have an effect.

3. The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. (Rising.)

EVERY major science body on Earth has said the scientific consensus is good science. The handful of atmospheric/climate researchers who disagree have not succeeded in showing why all of those papers in all of those journals are wrong, and the science world has moved on. The question of how we tackle the problem is a fair one for debate, but the scientific truth of the challenge is indisputable.

The Truth Behind The Billboard

There are a lot of questions about ho much we will warm and how much seal level will rise if we keep increasing greenhouse gases. The best science says around 3 degrees Celsius, and two to three feet is most likely. So far, the best climate models have underestimated the changes. James Hansen the NASA scientist who first brought the issue to public attention made predictions in the 1980’s that have so far been uncannily accurate.

The media gives a lot of exposure to those who think the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and all of those other science organisations are wrong. It’s done in the laudable effort to give balance, but It’s a false balance. If time was allotted in proportion to the researchers who disagree with the consensus, the non-consensus view would get 2% of the airtime, not 50%!

Something to remember the next time you read a newspaper piece or see something on TV about climate science. Let’s end with that fabulous quote by Richard Feynman- “Science is what we do to keep from lying to ourselves.”

What Others Say

There are some very good posts from other reputable science bloggers about the Heartland Inst. activities. Links are below:

Andy Revkin NY Times

Physicist Joe Romm

Climate Central

You might also find this video from the BBC showing how Carbon Dioxide absorbs short wave radiation interesting.