Skepticism about science and medicine

In search of disinterested science

Climate–change beliefs are politically and not scientifically determined

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2015/05/09

I had inadvertently posted this on my HIV/AIDS blog:

It’s nice when elaborately technical academic discourse supports what one already knew.

I had pointed out (A politically liberal global-warming skeptic?) that Fox News and its devotees (Republicans, conservatives, political right-leaners) deny that human-generated carbon dioxide has been proven to cause global warming (later morphed to unfalsifiable “climate change”) whereas MSNBC and its devotees (Democrats, liberals, political left-leaners) take as settled science that human-generated carbon dioxide has caused climate change including an increased rate of exceptional events.

That observational fact has now been scientifically re-proven by experts in cognition, decision-making, law, psychology: “The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks”, Nature Climate Change, 2 (2012) 732-5. The estimation of risk from climate change correlated positively with cultural or political world-views but negatively with scientific literacy and numeracy.

The experts concluded with another finding that everyone should already have known, namely, that facts don’t persuade people: “One aim of science communication, we submit, should be to dispel this tragedy of the risk-perception commons . . . . A communication strategy that focuses only on transmission of sound scientific information, our results suggest, is unlikely to do that. As worthwhile as it would be, simply improving the clarity of scientific information will not dispel public conflict so long as the climate-change debate continues to feature cultural meanings that divide citizens of opposing world-views.” “Members of the public with the highest degrees of science literacy and technical reasoning capacity were not the most concerned about climate change”.

The authors of this study accepted as given that human-generated carbon dioxide has been proven to cause global warming, climate change, and disastrous corollaries for our way of life. They presume that the risk is real AND MAJOR, and that estimates of it differ only as a result of perceptions, which of course are influenced by world-views. But if this is not accepted as axiomatic, then their findings can be interpreted in a much more straightforward way:

The more one knows and understands about science, the greater one’s numeracy and scientific literacy, the more is one able to recognize that human-generated carbon dioxide has NOT been proven to cause global warming.

Thus even a political liberal like myself becomes unwilling to accept that the risk from human activities is significant once he looks into the actual evidence. The prevailing belief in human-caused climate change comes from cherry-picking and misinterpreting historical data, in particular the time periods being considered, together with besotted infatuation with and obeisance to computer models — forgetting Computer Science 101: GIGO, Garbage In, Garbage Out.

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