Saturday, September 25, 2010

Climate Change: Being Skeptical about Skeptics

photo: NASA

by Alexandre Couto de Andrade

A group of researchers from the Columbia University (New York) has recently published a paper titled “Climate Change: Addressing the Major Skeptic Arguments” in which they examine many claims and counter-claims being made in the public debate about climate change. The paper's unequivocal conclusion is that “the primary claims of the skeptics do not undermine the assertion that human- made climate change is already happening and is a serious long term threat”. Nevertheless, in spite of the results drawn from meta-studies like this, the skeptics' arguments continue to find appeal among people all over the world.

Skepticism regarding climate science is particularly harmful due to the obvious relevance and urgency of the subject. The stakes are so high that we cannot afford to do nothing. Even if the worst case scenarios are unlikely to occur, we cannot wait until we are completely sure about what is going on. We must do something now! I am not talking about geoengineering or any other controversial “solution” that would probably make things even worse. I am talking about sustainability and rationality. And contrary to what many skeptics apparently want us to believe, sustainable development is not economically harmful, unless you consider dilapidating the planet a good long term investment. If we stop consuming natural resources at a rate that is far beyond that of their renewal (when they are renewable at all), what harm can we possibly cause to the planet? What harm will we cause to the planet if we reduce pollution and deforestation? What if we stop procreating like cockroaches? What harm will that cause?

The advancement of scientific knowledge would be nearly impossible without skepticism. For some scientists, however, skepticism seems to be an end in itself. They will simply never give up. When proven wrong, they will immediately look for some other way of undermining the arguments of the majority*. When you take a closer look at them, you realize that behind their intransigence almost invariably lies an agenda, bias or an inflated ego. Sometimes, finding out who sponsors their research sheds some light on the matter. But, unfortunately, it is rarely that simple.

*Click here and read John Cook's article “The contradictory nature of global warming skepticism


  1. There is a difference between being a true skeptic and an out and out denier.
    Most true skeptics I know have looked at the studies on climate change and can't find any other explanation other than it is due to man made sources of carbon and other activities.
    The true skeptics are critical of those who say it will lead to a greater than 6 degree warming (which is bad enough).
    Deniers just look at the evidence and say, "La, La, La I can't hear you."