Through the years when following all the research and headlines revolving around anthropogenic global warming (AGW) I have often found and shared what seemed to be some stark contradictions. Such as, AGW is going to destroy the environment and everyone is going to starve, but it has also been blamed for the obesity epidemic. Or, AGW is going to cause more El Nino conditions in the Pacific Ocean and California will suffer from massive storms vs. AGW is going to cause more La Nina conditions and California is going to suffer more drought (“Agriculture will become impossible”). Then of course we have some speculation that AGW will cause more intense and numerous hurricanes, vs speculation that there will be less hurricanes. The most notable contradiction is having more flooding rains but also more drought (this is possible, by the way, even though at first glance it doesn’t seem to make sense).
The latest contradiction comes surveys about acceptance of AGW theory. In one study, it is claimed the most people are too stupid to know that they don’t understand AGW and this leads to their skepticism of AGW. In another survey, it was found that people with higher math and science knowledge tended to be more skeptical of the proposed dangers of AGW. So dumb people and smart people are both skeptical of AGW? (to put it in non-politically correct blunt terms). I suppose that is possible. I guess I am in good company, being somewhat skeptical of AGW theory and prognostications. It appears people a whole lot smarter than me are skeptical too!
I think there might be two things going on here. One, scientists are naturally more skeptical. Broad claims of environmental destruction have been made over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again throughout the last few decades, plus there is the old axiom that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof (which has been slowly developing in regards to AGW). So some skepticism is natural. Also, scientists don’t like to be told “this is how it is, this is the truth, don’t question it”, which was the distilled essence of many a science-media AGW pronouncement over the last couple decades (whether it was a fair characterization or not).
Most scientists are well trained to root out bias as well. Maybe they are seeing some possibilities of cognitive bias and group-think in the AGW profession. After all, there are now bots that constantly argue in favor of AGW theory and apps that only show how things around the world are getting worse.
There is also the fact that many scientists (most that I know anyway) are much more concerned about other more immediate existential threats to humans than AGW. Maybe their skepticism is just really a lack of immediate concern.
By the way, I don’t think anyone is too stupid to understand AGW. If you spend enough time reading about the science behind it, the global weather patterns, and climate model projections, you can get a reasonable grasp of what is going on. You can construct a reasonable opinion.
Have a fine Tuesday! Meteorologist Justin Loew
This post was written by jloew on August 7, 2012