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Science vs. Scientific Consensus On Global Warming

Written By : John Hawkins
October 14, 2010

Over at the New York Times, Ross Douthat, who’s a true believer in global warming, wrote a surprisingly intriguing piece called, “Why Don’t Republicans Believe in Climate Change?

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The reason I say, “surprisingly intriguing” is because most pieces of the sort that Douthat’s writing are tedious, insult-laden borefests. Pieces like that are so common and repetitive that you can practically recite them in your sleep, “Zzzzzzzz, Republicans hate science, scientific consensus, zzzzzzzz, crazy to suggest otherwise, polar bears, zzzzzzz.”

Douthat, who’s squishy, but thoughtful, takes a different route:

Ron Brownstein and Bill McKibben both have pieces up lamenting the ascendancy of climate change skepticism in the Republican Party. While McKibben ponders the intellectual roots of this phenomenon (a subject I touched on, as he notes, in a column earlier this year), Brownstein points out that the G.O.P. is an outlier among the developed world’s right-of-center parties…

…What’s interesting, though, is that if you look at public opinion on climate change, the U.S. isn’t actually that much of an outlier among the wealthier Western nations. In a 2007-2008 Gallup survey on global views of climate change, for instance, just 49 percent of American told pollsters that human beings are responsible for global warming. But the same figure for Britain (where Rush Limbaugh has relatively few listeners, I believe) was 48 percent, and belief in human-caused climate change was only slightly higher across northern Europe: 52 percent in the Czech Republic, 59 percent in Germany, 49 percent in Denmark, 51 percent in Austria, just 44 percent in the Netherlands, with highs of 63 percent in France and 64 percent in Sweden. (Doubts about anthropogenic global warming are considerably rarer, the study found, in southern Europe, Latin America and the wealthier countries of Asia.)

There’s a reasonably large Western European constituency, in other words, for some sort of climate change skepticism. (And probably a growing one: In Britain, at least, as in the United States, the economic slump has dampened public enthusiasm for anti-emissions regulation.)

…The debate over climate change isn’t unusual in this regard. On issues ranging from the death penalty to (at least until recently) immigration, America’s major political parties generally tend to be more responsive to public opinion, and less constrained by elite sentiment, than their counterparts in Europe.

At the end, Douthat mades a brief nod to a “pretty sturdy scientific consensus,” but that begs a central question that never seems to be answered: Why do supporters of global warming constantly try to convince people with talk of scientific consensus instead of the actual science?

Obviously, a large percentage of the population in the United States and in various Western European nations is unconvinced by the science behind global warming. So, if there is solid science behind that “scientific consensus,” why is it that so many people find it unpersuasive?

There’s a tendency among the elite to simply stick their noses up in the air and haughtily declare that all the bumpkins out there can’t understand the science behind it. However, that’s not a very persuasive argument. After all, it’s not as if most people are rolling their eyes at Einstein’s Theory of Relativity or denying that dark matter exists. So, as a general rule, the public seems to be able to handle scientific concepts just fine.

Could the issue here actually be that people who deny the existence of manmade global warming are simply making a much better scientific case for their views to the public? Certainly, I think that’s the case. In my experience, believers in manmade global warming, even scientists, can’t answer the most basic questions about their beliefs.

This no small matter. You can’t ask people to spend trillions of dollars, dramatically scale back their lifestyle, and roll back progress on a global scale based on an extremely sketchy theory. Well, I shouldn’t say you can’t do it because the climate alarmists are asking us to do exactly that. However, it would be extremely foolish for us to do it until the day comes when they can make their case.

So, long story short: You want to convince people manmade global warming is real? Then take the politics out of the process, stop squealing about doomsday, and start working on proving your case scientifically, with honest, non-doctored results. If that ever happens, convincing Republicans and the rest of the population won’t be much of a problem.

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