As a non-climate scientist…

As a non-climate scientist… October 14, 2014

I’ve remained more or less agnostic on the question of anthopogenic climate change since, hey, what do I know? The reports and argumentation in the public square have always tended to confuse me, such as this

California’s drought linked to greenhouse gases, climate change (Sept. 29, 2014)

“California’s extraordinary drought is linked to the abundance of greenhouse gases created by burning fossil fuels and clearing forests.”

versus this:

California drought: Past dry periods have lasted more than 200 years, scientists say

“Through studies of tree rings, sediment and other natural evidence, researchers have documented multiple droughts in California that lasted 10 or 20 years in a row during the past 1,000 years — compared to the mere three-year duration of the current dry spell. The two most severe megadroughts make the Dust Bowl of the 1930s look tame: a 240-year-long drought that started in 850 and, 50 years after the conclusion of that one, another that stretched at least 180 years.”

(Note that the stories both originate with Mercury News and not with rival organs of propaganda.)

Similarly, I recall being up the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska a few year back and being told by the guide that the Glacier (which has obviously shrunk considerably) was evidence of ACC. But when I asked when the Glacier has begun melting, I was told “about two centuries ago”. I replied, “That would place the beginning of climate change before the Industrial Revolution, wouldn’t it?” To which a woman pursed her lips and hissed, “The Chinese were burning a *lot* of bamboo back then.” Clearly, I was profaning with my question, so I piped down and observed the pieties quietly.

Which reminds me: because of this bafflement and ignorance about the science I begin where most people begin, not with the stuff I don’t know about, but with the stuff I do know about. In my case, that is the language of faith, not science. And what has always struck and interested me about ACC is how in the popular arena, the entire discussion of ACC has been conducted, on both sides, using the language of faith, not science.

I remain the ignoramus I have always been about the science, assuming the scientists know what they are talking about.

But, for me, having *only* my grasp of how different faith communities frame their arguments, one powerful piece of evidence in favor of ACC is the fact that American Movement Conservatism, with its infallible knack for being massively, obviously wrong about so much for so long in so many ways, is dead against it. That gives me real pause. See for instance, this rather sane piece at Catholic World Report, followed by denunciations, tribal shibboleths, and shouting at the author for his crime of Ungoodthink. The “arguments” in the combox all boil down to hard analysis like “Whose side are you on anyway?” Hard science is no match for that kind of cogent thinking.

Meanwhile, among the leaders of the Thing That Used to be Conservatism, this also does not fill one with confidence that the skeptical faith community is all that reliable a guide

So I continue to do what I have always done: assume the scientists know what they are talking about (even if I don’t), continue to be baffled by the arguments in the public square, and continue to be impressed by how much of our discussion of climate change, like our discussions of evolution, proceed in the language of faith, not science.


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