08 January 2012

Scientists as the Enemy? Sometimes!

Regular readers know that my husband spends hours and hours every day reading and synthesizing the research on global warming and climate change, so when something new comes along, he's on top of it.

Still, his antagonism towards the majority of climate scientists has always confused me a bit. After all, the research that he's reading and synthesizing day in, day out comes from scientists! But he maintains that these scientists — who could have made the conscious choice to be human beings first and scientists second — have a lot of the weight of inaction on climate change on their shoulders.

Yesterday, I saw this in action, and it disturbed me to the core. We were invited by a friend to have a meeting over coffee (okay, soy chai latte) with a scientist friend of his, someone with a high degree in physics and a government job.

I figured this was going to be a friendly meeting of minds and hearts. Wrong! This fellow was a denialist wolf pretending to be nice in sheep's clothing. As he kept "playing" devil's advocate, disagreeing with research he had neither heard of nor read, I felt more and more slimed. I had gone there with my defences down, not realizing it was a trap.

At first, I thought it was slightly strange but friendly repartee. But the number of times he used the terms "devil's advocate" and "don't believe the numbers" convinced me that his motives were not friendly.

His big "lesson" for us was to not forget the negative feedbacks (which in this case are the good ones). Hey, mister, if you can get your negative feedbacks to overwhelm the overwhelming positive (bad) feedbacks in the climate system, go for it. But so far, your negative feedbacks are losing because we keep pumping 30 billion tons of extra (human-made) carbon into the atmosphere each year ... and rising! (So not only is that figure not falling to zero carbon emissions, but the rate of acceleration of our emissions is still rising.)

The lesson I hope I left this man with is this: Physics, schmysics. What about the humans in the equation? What about the kids? What about their future? Why would we not employ the precautionary principle if there is any risk whatsoever?

The science is valuable, but not if we're ignoring what's happening in the world because it doesn't fit with our "scientific models," and not if scientists are going to put science before life itself.

1 comment:

  1. have you read
    Peter F. Sale - Our Dying Planet: An Ecologist's View of the Crisis We Face


I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?