Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sort of a Public Service Announcement

I teach entry level science courses at the University of New Mexico, and one of the most baffling things I’ve come across is that there are people who don’t believe or trust the data about climate change. I swear I’m not going to go into this more than this once. This is my PSA.

I’ve had students who could believe that we are pumping water from the aquifer faster than it is replenishing. I’ve had students who could believe that length of day has changed due to orbital resonance with the moon. But every time I talk about climate change, I get some student who refuses to believe the data. There’s a ton of data on climate change. It isn’t my field of expertise (I only study the rocks that fall from the sky, everything else is someone else’s problem), but I can speak competently on the subject. It makes me crazy when they come up to me after class and ask me “Well isn’t all of this complete bologna? Remember that scientist whose emails proved he was throwing out data that didn’t fit his model?”

That guy got a lot of press, and the nay sayers sure have spread that story. Interestingly, they didn’t spread the story about his exoneration. Typical. And so every semester, I’m confronted with another student (sometimes they travel in tribes), and I have to tell them about how the data is not really something that can be argued with, that really any idiot (even a sloppy scientist) could collect temperature data using a relatively calibrated thermometer (a tool we’ve had since the 1850s). And any idiot could easily see the global temperature change, irrespective of its cause.


Well, this year I have finally found the one thing that seems to put aside all the bitter infighting about global climate change, and I’m passing it on to you. It is a fantastic thought experiment, and I highly recommend you give it a look. And then share it with everyone you know. Seriously, as an Earth Scientist, I’m with the doomsayers, but think for yourself.

Right, I’ll get down off my soap box now.


  1. It's funny what the general public choose to believe. Like that lone scientist who said that MMR vaccinations caused autism - people believed him, rather than the ton of data produced that said it didn't. And some people still believe, putting their kids in danger of diseases that are far worse than this supposed risk.

    1. Oh, that stupid study! Urgh! (Shakes scientist fists). That's another case of one study or headline got a ton of media attention, and no one paid any attention to the three studies that came out refuting the first. The study has been officially redacted, BTW, and I still hear people talking about it (I know someone who works with autistic people).

      People choose what to believe more than think through the data.


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