Friday 19 August 2016
Climate Science has always been somewhat of a layperson’s dilemma. Monday night’s Q&A programme yet again demonstrated that there are still conspiracy nutter mentalities who gain prominence by being controversially stupid.
When the debate turned to Climate Change even renowned physicist Brian Cox was dumbfounded by One Nation senator-elect Malcolm Roberts’ arguments. Roberts suggested that the figures presented by Cox were manipulated by NASA and that it was all essentially a lot of lies. The audience laughed. How are we so blindly stupid that we elect these people.
Why he was even given a seat on the panel is beyond me. Even more so is why Greg Hunt was allowed to lie about the effectiveness of the Coalition’s Direct Action policy is also beyond me.
But all that aside how does the layperson comprehend it all.
During the 2000 federal election campaign I tuned onto the ‘7.30 Report’, the night Kerry O’Brien interviewed Tony Abbott about the coalitions ‘Broadband Policy’. During the interview, Abbott who was totally out of his depth appealed to O’Brien not to ask questions of a technological nature because he simply did not understand it. As a voter, I was appalled that anyone with ambitions at the time to become Prime Minister should know so little about his own policy. (Mind you, at the time he could not introduce his party’s economic policy either, but that is another matter).
What occurred to me on reflection was that if Abbott knew so little about the science of the internet, how could he have developed such an insightful knowledge of climate science as to be able to dismiss it as crap? This in turn prompted me to question my own comprehension.
I had to admit that although I followed the debate rigorously and considered myself well-informed. I in fact like many others knew little of the science itself. Frankly, I have enough trouble with the pop up toaster.
Ask me about literature, art, political and religious philosophy, music, sport and I can handle myself adequately but science no. Ask me to explain how an atom is split, how carbon dating works, how science takes us to space, advances in medical science, how a mobile telephony phone system works, DNA, genetics or electricity is produced then I would be hard pressed to explain. In fact, I could not and the reader will understand I have only minutely touched on some branches of science.
So as a layperson, where does this leave me? Whom do I believe? Well for me it is a no brainer. I come down on the side of science. In the last few years, I have under gone a number of operations. I have had a heart attack and bowel cancer. When confronted with these issues never once (when consulting with surgeons) did I question the diagnosis I accepted that scientific research had given my doctors the knowledge to perform whatever procedure was necessary.
Therefore, it goes that I cannot explain how many things function or occur. I simply know that science through reasoned, rational enquiry, evaluation and testing proves that they do.
For the life of me, I cannot understand people who accept science’’ in fact’’ and use it every day somehow become brain-dead when it comes to climate science.
However, lay people like me who believe in the existence of climate change cannot honestly claim to know the veracity of the science for ourselves but are happy to delegate this task to climate scientists. Laypeople simply do not have the knowledge to adjudicate on the issue.
On the other hand the, those who deny the overwhelming scientific consensus seek to justify their belief by attaching themselves to a minority of science sceptics with obscure qualifications or worse to right-wing shock jocks and journalists with no scientific training what so ever. These people (like you and me) have no way of evaluating the volume of data produced by the various scientific institutions. One of the most outspoken sceptics (Andrew Bolt) has been found guilty of deceptive lying in that he defamed some white skinned aboriginals.
One has to wonder how many he has told when writing about his favourite topic climate change.
If I do not support the 95% of scientists, every major scientific institution and the research that is constantly peer evaluated I am obliged to accept the alternative. That is that I should take seriously the likes of Andrew Bolt (a journalist) Alan Jones, (I’m not sure how you would describe his contribution to society) Lord Monckton (a discredited something who was once a lobbyist for the tobacco companies), Nick Minchin and Tony Abbott (both politicians) or new kid on the block Malcolm Roberts. In fact, Minchin is on the record as saying that climate change is a left-wing conspiracy to replace communism. None of the aforementioned people has a background or expertise in climate science.
Now that’s not to say that they should not have a view and that that view should not be considered as should any laypersons if they are of that ilk. But surely, we must respect the science otherwise; you put into question all science.
As to which way is the best to tackle the problem in Australia this is more open for the layperson to investigate. In this country, we have two propositions. One is an emissions trading scheme.
The other is a direct action policy where taxpayer’s funds are given (repeat “are given”) to the polluters to clean up the mess they have created without any guarantees they will do so. In all my research, this method has no credence among professionals. Indeed, Greg Hunt has not produced one economist in support of direct action. Before he became Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wrote angrily about how the scheme would be a costly disaster. Treasury has qualitative evidence to suggest his plan will cost twice as much as they have committed. It is a shame, indeed sad to see shadow minister Greg Hunt who wrote his university thesis (with honors) in support of a carbon tax trying to defend Direct action.
In conclusion, for me as a layperson it seems logical to support the evidence the scientists have produced. I think all the people of this earth and our planet deserve the benefit of any doubt.
Alternatively, when science discovers a cure for cancer do I just say “crap”?
Australia in fact produces 1.4 of the world’s emissions and people therefore argue that whatever we do to reduce them will have little or no effect. All the countries combined that produce less than 1.5 per cent (including Great Brittan) actually total one third of world emissions so it follows that if we and the other smaller emitters do something to reduce them we will be having an effect on a third of the problem and that is a large contribution.
My thought for the day.
“We all incur a cost for the upkeep of our health. Why then should we not be liable for the cost of a healthy planet”.