Our age of criticism is based on one teeny logical flaw: Ideas need not be perfect to work. While I have no pretensions of being a man of science, I have come to respect deeply the power of Science - the inclusive search for objective truth. Engineers like me put scientific results to work, and we rely upon scientific method to continue to serve as as it has in the past. Even if our understanding is incomplete.
Hence my position on anthropogenic climate change. I have written several times ( here, here, here, here, and here) about the evolution of my position from general skeptic to acceptance of the position favored by the overwhelming majority of climate scientists. In short, I believe in wise crowds.
The recent predictions by the IPCC - even after watering down - reinforce my conviction. I would offer four other reasons why I embrace the position that humans are causing a significant portion of the now verifiable global warming.
- The flip-floppers seem to be all flipping one way. (OK, Mitt Romney is an exception, but is there any issue he is not steering hard right on?) If anthropogenic climate change was still in a hazy cloud of uncertainty, shouldn't scientists be changing their positions in both directions? Farmers have another issue as well: biotech acceptance. How can we deride those who overlook the consensus of science saying biotech plants are safe when we refuse to acknowledge the consensus of science on global warming?
In any case, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that current varieties of genetically enhanced crops are safe to eat and don't pose unusual risks to the natural environment. But that isn't stopping Greenpeace from waging a global "Say no to genetic engineering" campaign or the Friends of the Earth from demanding a GM Freeze. Perhaps the idea of scientific consensus is not all that it's cracked up to be. After all, scientific consensus does not mean "certain truth." Whatever the current consensus of any scientific issue is can change in the light of new research. Nevertheless, environmentalist ideologues accuse those who question the climate change consensus of bad faith and worse. But aren't they exhibiting a similar bad faith when they reject the broad scientific consensus on genetically modified crops? [More]
- The politics of resistance to human-causality now overshadows the science. Thank you very much, Al Gore. Many on the right are cut off from objective thought because it could lead to idealogical apostacy.
As I see it, the opponents of action on climate change fall into two camps. In one camp are the ideologues. These are people with a knee-jerk negative reaction to any kind of environmental regulation—or, for that matter, any kind of government regulation. They are also people who never met an international treaty or institution that they felt was worthy of U.S. support – apart, perhaps, from the International House of Pancakes. Getting this group to support U.S. action on climate change and/or U.S. participation in any kind of national or global response to this issue is, in short, a lost cause. [More]Since global warming has become a political issue, we decide by politics - although to be fair, the performance by pseudo-conservatives in power in other arenas (economics, foreign policy, etc.) is making this less of an issue.
- Real businesses betting real money. Seriously wealthy board members on large corporations are betting fortunes that the climate problem is real. Some want to make money fixing it, some want to avoid losing money because of it, and some simply think it it the right way to act. Climate change is on the agenda.
- The skeptics are becoming shriller and stranger. The tenor of the debate has become paranoid in the opposition. Conspiracy and even weirder threads fill the void left by decreasing rebuttal evidence.
Science, in the course of history, has been self-correcting and productive. Neither can be said for religion or ideology. I'm going with the scientists on this one.
But I support your right to choose otherwise.