3 August 2013

Unhappy Times In The Flat Earth Society

Posted by Dan Satterfield

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For anyone who cares about science and science education, it can seem very frustrating to realize how widespread certain myths are. Large numbers of Americans think that science is divided about the whether climate change is even occurring, and even more about whether humans are causing it. It’s easy to understand why people are confused; just google “Climate Change” and you will get a slew of unscientific tripe mixed in with the real science.

The truth of the matter is getting through however, in spite of the very loud voice by those who disagree. It’s obvious that nearly all of the skepticism is based not on the science, but a real fear over the perceived political or economic consequences of a warming planet.  There are physicists who doubt the Moon landing, and MD’s who do not believe the HIV virus causes AIDS, but it’s human nature that there will always be a few who refuse to accept overwhelming, and solid science. The cases where the doubters were proven right are famous in science, and for good reason; they are rare exceptions indeed. Just how few doubters are left in the science world was shown clearly earlier this year, in a paper by Physicist John Cook in Australia.

I’ve noticed a sea change of opinion in the last few years (especially among synoptic meteorologists like myself), and increasingly those who deny it are looked upon in the same light as the conspiracy lovers who post YouTube videos about HAARP and chemtrails (Some of these make popcorn worthy entertainment though!). A sure sign of that changing opinion is an Op-ED in the NY Times today by 4 former administrators of the EPA under Republican administrations. It’s well worth a read. Let me be clear though that I will never advocate here for any one political response.

The Interior Secretary had comments on Friday that were similar, and last month the President said we do not have time for a “meeting of the flat Earth society”.

How we go about switching the world to a clean energy source is primarily a political question.

We are way overdue in having that discussion, and it’s very likely too late already to avoid some serious consequences.