Do you take climate science with a grain of salt?

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If you say ‘yes’ to the title of this post, it’s a good thing. ‘Science is not something you should believe in. You should be skeptic about everything.’, an advice offered to me once. Science is based on facts – there is no question of belief in science. Science helps you find the truth. It is logic and not blind faith. It’s not about consensus either. Stuff that you don’t understand seems magical for a reason. The reason is our lack of understanding and it astounds us. Want to see some magic? See the video below.

When Copernicus said that the sun was at the center of our solar system instead of the earth, when Galileo supported him, imagine what would have happened if everyone had believed the consensus. We probably wouldn’t have advanced in astronomy as much as we do now. This fell on my ears when I listened to Real Time with Bill Maher as Bill questioned the speaker Bret Stephens (a columnist) why he won’t believe the scientists who know climate science. But as Rheinhard says, the heliocentric solar model won because it had evidence to back it up, and the same goes with climate change.

So far the evidence that I’ve seen, which is available for anyone with internet to view – the chart where the CO2 has been rising like it never has before, and that greenhouse gas effect is real, I think CO2 reduction is tough but necessary. It would be scary to think that so many scientists might have twisted scientific facts. Some say it is the solar spots and why not, sun has major influence on our climate. It doesn’t have to be just a single contributing factor. Climate science has evolved (see figure below) and is being supported by newer techniques such as NASA’s operation IceBridge. We are learning more and more about our atmosphere, land and water. The more we know, the better our climate models get. The better our climate models are, the better prepared we are with the help of the predictions that these climate models fetch.

Our oceans are carbon dioxide sinks. We do understand the chemistry that takes place in this case but we barely know the ocean in entirety. (There are waterfalls and lakes at the bottom of the sea! There’s an ocean at the core of the Earth! AAAAAAAA!) It’s only been three decades since we started studying what constitutes 70% of our Earth’s surface. May be the ocean will take care of this all, may be it won’t.

Some may argue that the money that goes into climate science may better address immediate issues of concern – like poverty and diseases. (I do not find the source of this statement at this moment.) Won’t preparedness for climate disasters help not only the rich but also the poor? Doesn’t science help alleviate poverty in the long run? Can’t we allocate enough money for both – poverty, medicinal science and all kinds of scientific studies there can be? Speaking of funding towards science, the picture isn’t too good for space science either:

“As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?’ Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar.” From Space Chronicles, p. 25.

Take climate science with a grain of salt? Do you take any other subject of science with a grain of salt? I do because that propels me into understanding it better rather than believing it on face value.

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” Neil deGrasse Tyson

He nailed it!

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7 thoughts on “Do you take climate science with a grain of salt?

  1. Great blog Anuja! One of my favorite quotes. “Scientists can read a thousand books in a lifetime and still have a thousand questions. The religious read one book and believe they have all the answers.”

    Science is applied logic, faith is belief that abandons all logic. “We’re told to take it on faith.” I’ve never personally understood the value of taking thing on faith that can’t be substantiated with empirical evidence, much less wagering one’s entire perspective in life on beliefs tantamount to fairy tales.

    I believe that denying scientific evidence that runs contrary to our beliefs is such an easy out because in doing so, we don’t have to change and we don’t have to take accountability for our actions or perceived contribution to a problem. It’s in a way, a coping mechanism albeit, an immature and unawakened one.

    The last paragraph of Dirks comment above is exactly what I have found in my research. Studies show that people are reluctant to change their believe even in the face of an insurmountable amount of evidence for fear of being socially ostracized for doing so. As a result, our society becomes complacent and afraid to express an opinion on any topic for fear of being unaccepted. Thus the term “sheople.” Progress is slow in a world where people have beliefs but have no voice in expressing them.

    Love the chart showing the progression of climate science and the scientific models. And love the quote by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Says it all….

    Keep up the great work!

    David

    P.S. Since you got a lot out of my editorial on the Oceans, wanted to let you know that I did a public speaking engagement on the environment in December and after an arduous amount of time, converted it into my latest editorial. It’s kinda long but I think you’ll find it informative if you get a chance to read it.

    1. Your favorite quote is now my favorite too.
      Yes, Dirk’s got a good point there!
      Could you please share a link to your editorial on the Oceans? Would like to read it.

  2. “A preliminary mention of newer findings and studies can be made in syllabi.”
    Certainly, what is being taught should always be at the newest stand of scientific knowledge. :-)

    But how do people keep up to date with new knowledge once they finished their education? Do newspapers and TV stations have dedicated science journalists?

    Fortunately, the interested public can keep up to date of new science findings by reading interesting blogs, such as yours :-) , and by following the social media accounts of science organizations.

    1. Now a days, we have what they call ‘Continuing Education Programs’ or CEPs, for students and professionals or whoever is interested.

      True, so much information can be found from a few clicks. My mother has recently learnt to operate a smart phone. Once in a blue moon, when she is curious she googles stuff! :)

  3. Interesting post. Yes, in general, people should question whenever something is presented to them as the truth.

    I like Nasa’s Development of Climate Models diagram.
    The thought comes to my mind that people who deny humankind’s cause of the, in geological time frames, currently rapidly changing climate on Earth [50 % of adults* in the USA do not agree with the statement “climate change is mostly due to human activity” http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/01/29/public-and-scientists-views-on-science-and-society/%5D are somehow stuck with the knowledge they learned in school or during their tertiary education: thus, they may never have heard about newer climate models. Maybe there should be programs and workshops to keep journalists’ scientific knowledge up to date, so that they can then better educate the public, see http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130122122438.htm .

    *An alternative explanation for these 50 % is that it seems to me that many people have a strong desire for uniformity, which equals a fear of offending others. As a consequence, few people are willing to be the first. Thus, people deny climate change, for as long as their neighbors/friends have not expressed an opinion on it.

    1. That’s a good suggestion, Dirk. A preliminary mention of newer findings and studies can be made in syllabi. Not sure how often syllabi are updated. This could be a topic of interest to people involved in education.

      Mass hysteria could be one of the reasons for both the sides – acceptance and denial. One can accept or deny certain things because peers do. But then it is not about certainty as much as it is about clarity.

      “More important than the quest for certainty is the quest for clarity.” -Francois Gautier

      Thanks for bringing in a new perspective!

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