The other day a colleague asked me whether I believed in climate change. When I told him I didn’t think it was necessary to “believe” in something that is – in theory – provable, I was branded as a Denialist (How do you respond to that? “No, I’m not” “Aha! See?”).
The main problem with climate science is that results can be cherry-picked (and very often are). Any challenges to the methodology used to arrive at a particular set of results are met with much hand-waving, indignant sputtering and dark mutterings about conspiracies. As entertaining as this may be, it does little to advance matters towards a satisfactory conclusion.
The trouble is that very few people possess the knowledge or stamina to wade through the mountains of available data. It’s certainly a whole lot easier to place one’s trust in someone with a PhD and a steely-eyed conviction in their own rightness.
It’s this pseudo-religious aspect to climate science that irritates me the most. I thought the whole point to scientific enquiry was that you didn’t have to take things on faith. If this makes me a hard-boiled sceptic, then so be it. “Open your eyes, man, the proof is all around you!” is not particularly convincing as arguments go.
However, plausibility is largely irrelevant, because one of the very first skills we learn as human beings is how to lie. The ability to concoct convincing stories is an essential survival strategy. Whether you’re trying to deflect parental retribution onto a sibling, or punting a specific agenda, rigid adherence to the facts will probably not work in your favour.
It’s difficult to see the bigger picture when your nose is pressed up against the canvas, but I am hopeful that one day we’ll have unequivocal proof that changes in global temperatures can be directly attributed to Cthulhu’s late-night burrito binges.