I have been re-considering a lot of my long held beliefs recently, and the idea of man made climate change appears to be next on on my list of beliefs that are in need of re-evaluation.
For a while I have held the belief that man made climate change is a real problem, and that we have to do something about it. Why did I hold this belief? Well, like many others I am sure, that simply seemed to be the consensus among the majority of people that I knew, along with what I was hearing from the media.
It also seemed to me that most people in my generation had the same opinion. Apparently that is true, 76% of the people in my generation believe that climate change is indeed a serious problem. You can read about the survey with this data here and here.
However, believing in something simply because the majority of the people you know also believe it, isn’t really the best way to go about things. I need more of a foundation for beliefs in matters such as this.
So I went off looking for some information on climate change. But where should I look for this info? Who should I trust? Well since I am an American citizen, one of the first organizations that popped into my mind was NASA. There are a bunch of scientists there, they have launched rockets into outer space, put people on the moon, they seem to know what they are doing, so lets take a look and see what they have to say.
Ok, so it looks like they have a whole page of evidence supporting climate change along with a page saying that the scientific consensus is in favor of man made climate change. On the page, NASA also mentions that 97% of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities.
The 97% Consenses
This figure of 97% has been the rallying cry of many liberals, but it has also been largely questioned by conservatives. For example articles from the WSJ, Forbes, and the National Review question this figure. In general though, I have found much more recent support in favor of the 97% figure in general. The most recent study, done in 2016, seems to confirm this figure. You can read more about the scientific consensus on Politifact, FactCheck, and Wikipedia.
It is interesting to see that The Guardian posted an article in 2013 saying that the 97% figure appeared to be false, but they seem to have changed their position recently (or perhaps it is just the fact that the articles were written by two different journalists).
After looking into it this much, I am more inclined to agree with the 97% figure, but would say it really closer to a range of 90% – 97%. That is still a rather large majority of scientists though.
I have seen some people go so far as to say that, even though the majority of climate change scientists say that climate change is likely due to human actions, there is no guarantee that they are correct, that scientists as a whole have been wrong in the past about a lot of things, and they could be wrong this time.
This statement is technically correct. It is within the realm of possibility that the majority of scientists are mistaken. However, this is a very flawed argument for not believing in climate change. We should not believe people simple because there is a chance they are incorrect? What? Since when do we have 100% knowledge about anything? We could all just be brains floating around in a vat, attached to computers that simulate reality.
All we can really do is take the evidence that we have, figure out what is most probable, and continue forwards. If 90%+ of climate change scientists (experts) say that climate change over the past century is very likely due to human activities, I am going to have to side with them until proven otherwise.
While browsing around the Internet and NASA’s pages, I found that NASA was citing a lot of material from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). I didn’t really know who they were so I looked them up. You can read about the IPCC on their website here. To take an excerpt from their page the IPCC is:
The international body for assessing the science related to climate change. The IPCC was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.
Those are some hefty credentials. To summarize once again the IPCC:
- Was formed by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme.
- Was formed back in 1988.
- Was created to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change.
Ok, these people are supposed to inform world leaders and governments about climate change, surely they can inform me. What do they have to say?
Well the IPCC gives a report about climate change every few years. What do the reports have to say? You can read a summary of their latest report here, which essentially says the following:
Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes. It is extremely likely (95-100% probability) that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.
I don’t know about you, but that seems like a fairly definitive answer to me.
How to Refute?
Even with all of this information that seems to be in favor of climate change, it is still possible to refute the claim. How would you do this? You would need to do the following.
- Prove that NASA is wrong, misinformed, or manipulating information.
- Prove that there is no majority consensus among climate scientists.
- Prove that the IPCC is wrong, misinformed, or manipulating information.
Well fancy that, the Daily Wire just wrote up an article that supposedly does all of that and more as of yesterday!
Personally, I believe there is more evidence to disprove refutation #2, as it appears to me that there actually is a scientific consensus in favor of man made climate change.
What about refutation #1? NASA?
Well, there have been some articles floating around saying that NASA has been fudging their temperature data to invoke a false man made climate warming narrative. You can read articles criticizing NASA on fudging their temperature data on The Washington Times and Fox News.
This however seems to not actually be the case, if you believe what is said by FactCheck and PolitiFact. This would indicate to me that the claims that NASA and other organizations are explicitly trying to manipulate temperature data is on the whole false.
What about refutation #3? The IPCC?
Well it seems like there was an email scandal with regards to the IPCC dubbed ‘Climate-gate’ where the IPCC had their emails hacked into and exposed. The contents of those emails seemed to indicate that scientists manipulated climate data and attempted to suppress critics. You can read about criticisms of the scandal on the Washington Post and the WSJ.
People were pretty upset by this scandal, and so were a lot of governments. In the end there were eight major investigations made into the scandal, and none of them found any wrongdoing. You can read more about the scientists being cleared of suspicion via articles at the NYT, BBC, FactCheck, and Nature. There is also Wikipedia which has a nice breakdown and summary of the entire event.
All of the evidence and sources that I have been able to find would seem to indicate that it is extremely likely that humans are the dominant cause climate change. This would mean that we need to make some changes to avoid environmental issues in the future.
I certainly don’t know everything, or even very much for that matter. But based on what I have learned here, I believe that this is a reasonable conclusion. What do you think? Is this a reasonable conclusion? Did I miss anything? Make some mistakes? If you find new evidence or better information, let me know!
If anyone can refute me-show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective-I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 6.21