Over a year ago, I wrote a post about the process of opinion-changing. At the time, I intended to follow up with a series of posts about specific things I had changed my opinion on for various reasons. I never ended up writing any of them, mostly out of laziness. Well, now I’m writing about one.
In late 2009 and early 2010, I wrote three blog posts regarding global warming. In the first post, I said this:
Supporters of the idea of global warming don’t seem to care about the evidence; to them, any and all climate changes are evidence of global warming, even if that evidence is global cooling.
I still think a lot of people do talk about AGW without sufficiently explaining why cooling periods and why they either support or are irrelevant to AGW (depending on which cooling period you’re talking about). However, I was too closed-minded about it, dismissing it out of hand without sufficient research.
In the second post, I wrote this:
Now, I won’t claim the climate isn’t changing. That much is obvious. But I have yet to see anyone show that we’re causing it. What’s more, I have yet to see anyone show that the climate would stop changing if we (magically) completely eliminated pollution tomorrow – and there’s certainly practically no evidence that we can actually reverse it.
As I’ll get into shortly, it’s pretty obvious to me now that the global temperature changes we’ve seen in the last 40 years are our fault. (I’m less convinced that we can reverse the damage we’ve caused, but we can at least slow down the rate of the damage.)
In the third post, I said all kinds of things. I sourced some of them, and I don’t remember where others came from. Quoting something from that post would probably seem self-serving no matter which paragraph I choose, so you can just go read it and see all of what I said at the time. Suffice it to say, the CRU’s former director Phil Jones made some statements that seemed to me, at the time, to contradict the CRU’s public stance on the subject.
I don’t want to waste time going over the various articles I’ve read in the intervening years by various scientifically-minded people I respect. I will say that I’ve learned a lot over the last nearly 7 years, and rather than summarize it I’ll let this recent xkcd say it for me (compare the rate of change over the last 20,000 years to the rate of change in the last 100):
Not only do we as individuals learn more with time (if we’re paying attention), but so does the world at large. When global warming was first touted as something serious, there was not nearly as much evidence, and doubting was an understandable position. Gradually over time, evidence continued to support it, changing what makes sense a little at a time. To say you shouldn’t doubt popular science citing this is severe results-oriented thinking.
As I have gotten older, I suppose I may over-correct because of my distrust of the scientific community. All the money, power, and prestige causes there to be invisible influences.
That, and the public’s inability to have access to primary sources means we are dependent on tertiary source interpretation. Even when I could read experiment work in school, there were bad or irrelevant studies all over. And finding what you want with searching? Way to difficult because of the interface. (I hope it’s better by now).
Sorry, my point is, there is very good reason to be skeptical of popular science. Sometimes they get it right, but if all sides can hold their “I told you so”s and understand that sometimes the answer just isn’t clear immediatly, the world would be a much happier place. Just remember to have patience when you could say “I told you so” yourself.