tidal-wave

From the pages of Nature’s Climate Change Journal

Nature Climate Change,

Members of the public with the highest degrees of science literacy and technical reasoning capacity were not the most concerned about climate change. Rather, they were the ones among whom cultural polarization was greatest. This result suggests that public divisions over climate change stem not from the public’s incomprehension of science but from a distinctive conflict of interest: between the personal interest individuals have in forming beliefs in line with those held by others with whom they share close ties and the collective one they all share in making use of the best available science to promote common welfare.

So here we learn that “deniers” aren’t dumb or scientifically illiterate. But one rhetorically wonders which group they refer to that suffers from a “distinctive conflict of interest” that is driven by “personal interest” that “individuals have in forming beliefs in line with those held by others with whom they share close ties.”

This from the peer-reviewed journal of the prestigious Nature Publishing Group.

Comments

comments

  • http://twitter.com/YukonNards Stephen Hureau

    Sorry if you’ve posted this elsewhere Stephen, but allow me to ask your personal perspective:

    What do you think about the idea of human-influenced climate change?  Do you think that our transfer of carbon from fossil deposits into our atmosphere over the past 200 years has made a difference in the chemical composition of our atmosphere?  If so, do you think the change that we have caused has had any influence on the change in climate over that time?  What is your opinion on that influence?  Is it significant? Is it resulting in a measurable increase in average global temperature?  If so, is that increase in temperature going to have any impact on the ecosystems of our planet?  What will those impacts be?  How do you think they are likely to impact human societies in the immediate, medium, and long term time scales?  What, if anything, do you think humanity should do at a global scale to react to the impact, if any, that our activity has had on the composition of the atmosphere and the impact on climate that change has caused?

    These are real questions from a scientifically trained Canadian who enjoys your commentary.  Please avoid politically influenced answers if possible.  I have tried, really, to ask neutral questions and would love to hear your honest opinion.

    Many thanks,

    Stephen

  • Anonymous

    I’m sure others may chime in, but I’d like to throw a few cents in and see how this ,what will appear to be an intelligent, conversation will go.
      I think it would be foolish to think that we haven’t changed the atmospheric composition . The question is to what degree. My schooling is in forestry so I was taught extensively about climate and perhaps more importantly mico-climates. Depending where you are, be it urban, rural or wilderness, our effects vary. But nature has an ability to adapt, to such an extent that we don’t always give her credit for. Increases in atmospheric CO2 seem to be welcome by plant life.
        Lately there’s been questions as to the data from land based weather stations and the siting of intruments. Now we have satellite data and it’s compilation is still perhaps in its infancy, but the results so far show no statistical warming since 1998.
      As for human societies, consider that in the past , humans have experienced warmer and cooler periods. With much less technology than we have now, they adapted. As stated by others, the technology will come that will supplant our carbon society, but until then, adapt and don’t economically retard the entreprenurial spirit of those who will eventually come up with that technology.

  • DougM

            Sorry, I’m not Stephen, but I’m intrigued.  Alberta used to be a tropical swamp.  We know positively that the Ice ages happened (As  kid, I remember all the Scientists were telling us we were entering another) and have come and gone over the millenia and warming, at least the gradual warming of winters in Canada has been happening since Champlain’s time and its only been about the last 80 years that fossil fuels have really been spewing into the atmosphere.  With that data, it appears we can be pretty certain that the earth has been warming for centuries, and even before we had the ability to impact it.

          That is not to say that it makes sense to limit the damage we cause.   One case that would seem to prove both theories is the Ozone layer.   I remember when the panic ensued about it and once it was scientifically proven, CFCs were almost banned and more recent results indicate that the holes themselves are closing and the ozone layer repairing itself.   Hence a measurably man made issue was corrected or at least placed on the road to solution.

          Finally, a friend of mine is one of the leading people in the world dealing with this issue.  According to her, it is not carbon that is the issue.  What the “big thinkers” are worried about is methane.  About five times as damaging to the atmosphere as carbon, as the tundra melts, the vast areas of vegitation which has been frozen will thaw and rot – whether the temperature is man made or not, the resultant discharge of methane into the atmosphere is what keeps them awake at night.  An experiment in Russia a few years back resulted in them drilling through the snow down to the rotting vegitation and lighting the methane fumes off like a bunsen burner. 

  • DougM

            Sorry, I’m not Stephen, but I’m intrigued.  Alberta used to be a tropical swamp.  We know positively that the Ice ages happened (As  kid, I remember all the Scientists were telling us we were entering another) and have come and gone over the millenia and warming, at least the gradual warming of winters in Canada has been happening since Champlain’s time and its only been about the last 80 years that fossil fuels have really been spewing into the atmosphere.  With that data, it appears we can be pretty certain that the earth has been warming for centuries, and even before we had the ability to impact it.

          That is not to say that it makes sense to limit the damage we cause.   One case that would seem to prove both theories is the Ozone layer.   I remember when the panic ensued about it and once it was scientifically proven, CFCs were almost banned and more recent results indicate that the holes themselves are closing and the ozone layer repairing itself.   Hence a measurably man made issue was corrected or at least placed on the road to solution.

          Finally, a friend of mine is one of the leading people in the world dealing with this issue.  According to her, it is not carbon that is the issue.  What the “big thinkers” are worried about is methane.  About five times as damaging to the atmosphere as carbon, as the tundra melts, the vast areas of vegitation which has been frozen will thaw and rot – whether the temperature is man made or not, the resultant discharge of methane into the atmosphere is what keeps them awake at night.  An experiment in Russia a few years back resulted in them drilling through the snow down to the rotting vegitation and lighting the methane fumes off like a bunsen burner. 

  • MostlyCivil

    You will also find that this same demographic is also most likely to believe in Homeopathic health care. anti=vaccine sentiment and the evils of Wi-Fi. I wish I were kidding.

  • Anonymous

    So here we learn that “deniers” aren’t dumb or scientifically illiterate.

    Um, no. First let’s be clear on what the study is … studying: it is the subjects’ perception of risk from climate change, vs their scientific literacy. It is NOT reporting on the subjects’ acceptance or rejection of the position taken by an indisputable majority of climate scientists that human activity is having an effect on the climate. Of course, one’s perception of risk will be influenced by how profound they think the human-caused changes will be.

    That study does NOT identify who are deniers or not. And why would it? The majority of “deniers” – those non-scientists who outright reject the science behind the conclusions of human-caused climate change, and who clutch
    at straws like “those
    emails”
    – are de facto in, um, the shallow end of the
    scientific literacy pool. aka dumb.

    An interesting result nonetheless. It certainly refutes any implication that the
    “smarter” one is, the more concerned one would be. I would think that
    would be comforting to anyone who opposes expensive knee-jerk responses to climate-change.

    So, I’m curious as to why Stephen has posted this, and the point of  the attack.

    …one rhetorically wonders which group they refer to that suffers from
    a “distinctive conflict of interest” that is driven by “personal
    interest” that “individuals have in forming beliefs in line with those
    held by others with whom they share close ties.”

    Um, all groups? Everyone usually has an agenda. The scientific method, properly applied, is pretty good at minimizing the effects of personal bias. A conclusion based on sound science is usually better than one that flies in the face of it.

  • Anonymous

    1998 to now is just a blip in the timescale, when looking at the issue of man-made climate change. It’s possible, for example, that we are in what would have been a normal cooling cycle, except that the human effects have moderated or cancelled out that cooling. Which implies we’ll be in for something … interesting when the earth enters a natural warming cycle again.

  • Anonymous

     It’s my understanding that methane release isn’t a prime cause, it’s a knock-on effect. Global warming, howsoever caused, will cause tundra melt, releasing methane, which will cause more warming… part of a positive feedback loop that could be irreversible at some point in the near future. This is one of the reasons why some advocates are so strident in their calls for drastic cutbacks… and also why it might be too late anyways.

  • Pkuster

    That’s a clever argument and I’m surprised the alarmists haven’t picked that one up. I would say, that since the Medieval Warm Period was even warmer than we’ve recently experienced, your feedback loop should have taken hold then and we should be Venus by now.. Solar activity has and always will be the main driver of climate. Fact is we may never know for sure when the next period of warming will occur but as always, we’ll adapt. I don’t think earth will turn into a hot oven. 

  • http://twitter.com/YukonNards Stephen Hureau

    I’ve heard alot about that data and analysis that says there has been no warming in the past 15 years, but then I looked on the NASA website and there are many sources saying the last 8-10 years have been the warmest on record, and the past 10-15 have shown a clear increase. I’m not sure why there is such a discrepancy. 

    Nature does have an ability to ‘adapt’, called natural selection.  In that process, many species go extinct.  Nature, at the ecosystem level, also has an ability to push back on the need to adapt, called resilience.  That ability has limits, and the more we convert natural ecosystems into something more beneficial to our economies at any given time, the lower that resilience is.

    Climate change is often called “the Great Experiment”, and it’s one we’re entering into rather blindly. 

    Who knows what will happen.

  • http://twitter.com/YukonNards Stephen Hureau

    An interesting story Kenn, though it might seem like science fiction, is the measurement of solar energy (lumens) reaching the Earth surface in the USA in the few days after 911.  I recall the reported analysis suggesting that were it not for the “albedo effect” of all the clouds that our jets make, the rate of global warming would be far greater.  Many theories out there.

  • http://twitter.com/YukonNards Stephen Hureau

    The Medieval warm period is a new one for me…mostly I hear of the Medieval cooling period.  It was a phenomenon that existed in Europe and was not registered elsewhere in the World.  The theory is that the warm ocean currents that make Europe warmer than other parts of the globe at the same latitude stopped flowing, resulting in what we would call a “normal” climate for that region for those centuries.

    The British Isles are all north of 50 degrees, and as I’m sure you know the southern border of Canada from Western Ontario to the Pacific is 49 degrees.  

    That means London is north of all of southern Ontario, the Maritimes and Newfoundland, with there (our) minus 40 degree winters.

    Cities like Olso, Stockholm, Helsinki, and St. Petersburg are all about the same latitude as my hometown, Whitehorse Yukon.  But, able to support much greater population due to their climate.

    Europe’s climate, and the regional changes noted as “warm” and “cold” were and are local matters demonstrating how complex our climate – the atmosphere, ocean currents, air temperatures, cloud cover, ocean salinity and rates of energy exchange – is.  

  • http://twitter.com/YukonNards Stephen Hureau

    Great stuff Doug. Yes, we know that our planet’s climate is always changing. No scientist would suggest otherwise. Change is driven by the movement of continents (such as with the Alberta swamp, which extended to Baffin Island and Greenland), and the erratic movement of our planet through space (see “Milankovitch
    Cycles”).  And many other things.  Modern global warming theory does not dispute this.

    The key thing is that we don’t know what we’re doing.  Yes, humans really started altering the chemical composition of the atmosphere (adding carbon) at a major rate in the 1700s.  Perhaps it wasn’t until the 1800s that we could note a change in temperature, due to us or otherwise.  But whose to say when that change would occur or when we would detect it?  We’re messing with the most complex natural phenomenon we have access to.  It’s not a clock that we can apply simple mechanistic theories to.

    Your friend is right about Methane.  But, I’d encourage you to ask her about whether or not it’s “carbon that is the issue”.  Methane has far greater heat absorbing capacity per molecule than CO2 does.  I learned that in grade 11.  Something like 14 times.  So while it is far less present in the atmospheric mix, any increase in its relative concentration is expected to have great impact on temperature.

    It’s not even just the melting permafrost in tundra that is to be concerned of.  There are vast deposits of methane in the ocean bed of the Arctic called “methyl hydrates” that are constantly seeping to the surface, and are expected to increase as ice cover disappears.  In fact, there are theories that major global extinctions have occurred due to these deposits being quickly liberated and changing the climate drastically within a few years.

    Is this what we want to mess with?

  • http://twitter.com/YukonNards Stephen Hureau

    I was curious what Stephen Taylor thought, as a starting point of discussion.  I have a number of friends who popular culture would brand as “climate change deniers” and they are neither dumb nor dispassionate.  I cannot have good discussions with them.  I wonder if I had opened the dialogue as I tried with Stephen, whether that would be different.  Who knows!

  • http://twitter.com/saskboy Saskboy K.

     It simply would appear not to be a priority for Stephen T., unless he responded privately.