It’s not just mainstream science that suggests that climate change is a problem of major importance, mainstream media tends to agree.
The Press has an editorial on Doubting climate change science is no joke
There are times when the Donald Trump presidency seems comical or even fun, an absurdist exercise in postmodern political theatre.
But in other ways the Trump administration is too potentially dangerous to joke about. Its approach to climate change is one of them.
Scott Pruitt, Trump’s appointee as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has broken with global scientific consensus and argued that carbon dioxide is not a primary contributor to global warming. He told that a US news programme that “measuring with precision human activity on the climate is … very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact”.
Doubting science by claiming that a theory is just a theory without broad consensus behind it is a favoured technique of tobacco industry lobbyists and others who try to confuse or dissemble. They pretend disagreement exists where it does not or they attempt to turn very small differences into polar oppositions.
It’s not just a big business tactic, it is also a religious tactic, like on evolution.
Does this sound familiar? Discovery Institute (which also opposes climate change science) – Ranks of Scientists Doubting Darwin’s Theory on the Rise – “Another 100 scientists have joined the ranks of scientists from around the world publicly stating their doubts about the adequacy of Darwin’s theory of evolution.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Nasa and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US have all been clear that rising temperatures have been “driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere,” as a report from the latter two bodies put it in January.
As noted in US media reports, Pruitt’s statement even contradicted the position held by the EPA itself and conflicts with the laws and regulations the EPA is expected to enforce. The EPA’s own website says that “carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change”.
Most observers of US politics expected that Trump would follow through on the anti-environmental rhetoric of his campaign. They expected a retreat from positions taken by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama. As a Trump insider explained last week, his campaign commitment was to undo Obama’s “entire climate edifice”.
Pruitt was known to be an advocate for the energy industry before his appointment by Trump. The New York Times reports that “in his previous job as the attorney general of Oklahoma, he sought to use legal tools to fight environmental regulations on the oil and gas companies that are a major part of the state’s economy”. He drafted letters to send to the EPA and other bodies pleading economic hardship if environmental rules were not relaxed and reportedly sued the EPA 14 times.
Pruitt is now expected to preside over funding cuts and a review of his agency’s role in monitoring emissions and protecting waterways. The implications of a wholesale attack on an environmental agency are enormous, and not just for the United States. There is nothing remotely funny about any of it.
Climate science is complex and evolving as more is found out about it. Claims should certainly be challenged claims are scientifically questionable, but cannot just be dismissed, just as tobacco harm could not just be dismissed because companies might lose some money and just as evolution cannot just be dismissed because some religious groups might lose some faith.
It is quite possible that the effects of climate change are a much bigger threat to the world, and to many more people in the world, than extreme Muslims and Islamic terrorism.
Many more New Zealanders are likely to be affected by increasingly severe weather events than they are by terrorism.
Doubting some climate science is healthy, if based on science.
Doubting the possible severity of climate change is understandable – but this doubt works both ways, it may turn out to be not as bad as generally predicted, but it could just as easily turn out to be worse than predicted.
Those who doubt the accuracy of current climate change science can’t have it that it is just inaccurate in a way that suits their ideology.
There is far less climate science that suggests we won’t have any problems with climate change than otherwise.
Doubting all climate science is not based on science, it is based on denial.
There must be some degree of climate change, there always has been. Science will help us learn more about it, it will help us limit our effects on it, and it will help us deal with whatever changes end up happening.
We should aim for better climate science, and not just dismiss it with claims of doubts.