Michael Graham seems disappointed that I -- one of the climate kooks' "know-nothing liberal/greenie allies" didn't spank him hard enough in response to his recent warming-denial column in the Herald. Well, perhaps it's my weenie progressivism, but I don't believe that slow-witted children should be beaten for their ignorance.
No, I do not respond to skeptics like Graham by expounding on my blog about the voluminous, detailed, ever-expanding science of climate change. That would be silly. I also don't explain physics to someone who denies gravity. The science is out there, readily available. One good, layman-accessible place to start is the prepared statements presented at last months' House Committee on Science and Technology hearings (which included skeptics).
The truth is, I was once a global-warming skeptic. I read the Bill McKibbon articles, and listened to Al Gore, and I felt that the theory included a considerable amount of conjecture and uncertainty that had not yet convinced large segments of the relevant scientific community. Despite what my liberal acquaintences insisted, I felt it was too early to draw firm conclusions -- certainly about something that would suggest a public policy requiring massive investment and economic disruption.
That was in 1989. I still think I was right, given the state of the research at that time. But over the next few years, researchers and scientists put enormous resources to bear on the question, and answered it. And since then, as those answers have been repeatedly confirmed and expanded upon, even more resources have been devoted, resulting in ever-more thorough data, analysis, and interpretation. All of which has only further confirmed, and shed more light upon, what McKibbon and Gore were conjecturing more than 20 years ago. It's not conjecture any more.
Graham and others clutch at individual pieces of data, stripped of context, without consulting the scientific explanations, and declare them dispositive in favor of the skeptics. They are like the proverbial blindfolded men describing the elephant based on the one piece they touch. Only they are not blindfolded; the nature of the elephant is there in front of them; there are plenty of resources to explain how the various parts of the creature evolved -- and they nevertheless insist on keeping their eyes closed, clutching the tail, and declaring that the elephant is a snake.
To be honest, I find this climate-change denial baffling. I can understand denial of evolution; I get the ways in which evolution contradicts important tenets of certain religious belief systems, requiring a choice between faith and evidence -- and that for strong believers, faith is an understandable choice. (To cite just one example, Pat Robertson believes that the expulsion of man from the Garden of Eden has placed us all in an unnatural state of separation from God's presence, and that He offered the crucifixion of Jesus to provide the only path back. That makes sense, in Robertson's view, only if there was a literal Fall of a specially-created first man, from whom we all descend and whose punishment we all bear. That literal event is indeed very difficult to reconcile with evolution.)
I can also understand, say, belief that extraterrestrial beings have, and do, visit Earth. In cases like that, it's hard for "science" to prove the negative.
I can even understand Holocaust denial, as repugnant as it is. If you are convinced, as some hate-filled people are, that the Holocaust was fabricated to con the world into creating an independent Jewish state in the Holy Land after World War II, then you're a hate-filled nut, but I can at least understand A) your (anti-Semitic) motivation for wanting to believe the Holocaust is a myth; and B) your (wild, conspiratorial) reasoning for choosing to disbelieve the testimony and evidence presented by Jewish survivors and Israel-supporting Allied nations.
But as far as I can tell, warming deniers aren't protecting faith over evidence; there is no shortage of science proving that the earth's climate is being altered dramatically by human industrial activity; there is no apparent motivating reason to wish to believe otherwise (at least, for those not owning large amounts of stock in certain carbon-production corporations); and there's no coherent theory to explain why all of that science and evidence would be wrong.
So, yes, in a way I am suggesting that I find Michael Graham less sensible than people who believe in creationism, space alien visitation, and that the Holocaust is a myth. But, I mean it in the nicest possible way.