Sunday, March 29, 2015

Global Climate Change: The Science CANNOT Be Treated As A Matter Of Religion... Or Politics

Tim McDonnell at Grist:
Scientists and science journalists like to say that one of the best ways to tell that climate change is real is to take a look at the changes we can already see: This year is on track to be the hottest ever recorded, and glaciers, corn, and even grizzly bears are responding to the warming. But all those shifts won’t be enough to convince most conservative climate skeptics, a new study in Nature Climate Change finds.

A growing body of recent research suggests a person’s political ideology, economic philosophy, and religious beliefs tend to overwhelm observed facts about global warming. The new study, which was released Monday, put that hypothesis to the test by analyzing Gallup polls taken just after the unusually warm winter of 2012. It found that both Democrats’ and Republicans’ perceptions of the warmer weather in their state tracked fairly well with actual satellite temperature data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But “for people who said their local winter was warming, the observed temperature anomalies had no effect on the tendency to attribute that to global warming,” explains Aaron McCright, a sociologist at Michigan State University who authored the study.

In other words, the actual temperature had no bearing on whether people believed in climate change. Instead, McCright says, “one of the strongest predictors” is party affiliation: Republicans were far less likely to attribute the warming they felt to human-made climate change than were Democrats. Other variables — gender, age, and level of education — were far less reliable as predictors of a person’s global warming beliefs.

NASA Temp's Feb 2015
(hottest on record)
This result aligns with my personal observations: Republicans or conservatives with whom I am still on speaking terms (i.e., those who are not so irrational moment-to-moment as to preclude reasonable conversation) frequently take the attitude, "You believe one thing; I believe another. So it's a matter of faith, and in America, we have a constitutional requirement to treat all faiths equally under the law. So my belief is as good as your belief, and I don't have to change my life to conform to your belief."

There's literally no arguing with that. But it's wrong.

Florida Sea Level Rise
The problem is, the physical universe does not operate on that basis. Its actual physical behavior, on the grandest and the most microscopic scales, takes no account of what anyone "believes" in a religious sense of the term. The physics of the universe is not a matter of faith, nor an issue to be decided democratically. And that's what we're talking about here: conservatives treat global climate change as if it were a matter of religion.
It's going to be a long, hot century...


  1. I'm sorry, but objective reality is not a matter of faith. The world is either warming, or it's not warming. Regardless of your faith, reality simply *is*.

    Which reminds me of an early brilliant novel by C.J.Cherryh, "Wave Without A Shore", but that's another story.

    1. Exactly so, 'Tux. After reading your comment, I made a couple of minor changes to the post and added a NASA temperature map for clarity. but you are precisely on point here: belief in any religious or political philosophy simply cannot change the reality pointed to by the scientific model; only a better scientific model can do that.

      I don't know Cherryh; I'll have to look into that novel.

    2. It was one of her earliest novels and was basically a philosophical treatise on the nature of reality and the foolishness of people who proclaim that their belief defines reality. Best place to find it is probably eBay, I see it's going for around $5 there now. I think I bought my copy in the mid 80's for $1 at a used book store (it's a 1st edition paperback, which seems to be going for around $6 on eBay now). Sad to say, pirating a badly scanned copy of the book may be your best bet, given that it's been out of print for decades and public libraries would have long ago discarded the yellowed, faded, and disintegrating paperback copies in their racks (it was never released as a hardcover).

      Cherryh's latest stuff seems pretty much going thru the motions to make a living, but the early stuff was pretty awesome. Novels were shorter back then, and editors more vicious at cutting them down to size, so they move a *lot* quicker than her latest bookshelf-collapsing thousand-page tomes.



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