But Greg Laden has a primer on how skeptics can learn “what to believe.” A skeptic should question, but one doesn’t want to become a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, a crazy anti-vaccine person, or the kind of moron who denies global warming (caution: clicking any of the three previous links could actually cause you to become dumber). So, how does a skeptic learn enough about a scientific issue to figure out whether or not to believe something? Again, Greg Laden has the post that will help you.
“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see Nature all ridicule and deformity, and some scarce see Nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, Nature is Imagination itself.
(William Blake, 1799, The Letters)
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul.” (John Muir)
Your nature blog is quite inspirational and fascinating. I look forward to following you!
Sometimes I feel alone in the birding world as a four-eyed, balding, sometimes bearded, white male, man-caused-global-warming skeptic (“moron” in your words), Mormon, and political conservative. (Just kidding about that “four-eyed, balding, sometimes bearded, white male” part – the silver-haired variety are an especially abundant species in the birdwatcher world.) Contrary to what I read in magazines and online, it turns out that there are a lot of conservative birders out there like me.
Let me make it clear – I love birds! I love nature and wildlife. I love the wilderness that is mostly untouched by man. I promote and do what I can for conservation and habitat restoration within my circle of influence. I deplore the mass destruction of forests everywhere. It sickens me to think how many species have disappeared because of mankind’s ignorance and sometimes all out blood-thirst. When I come across litter in the backcountry I am quickly reminded that I support capital punishment and think we should expand it! I know I have a God-given stewardship over His creations on Earth which stewardship I hold sacred.
My libertarian ideals make it hard for me to stomach government control of most things. That being understood, I can’t help but wonder if we would have treasures like the National Parks if government had not stepped in and claimed them. There are many great private conservation efforts going on around the world. On principle, I support the private endeavors over government involvement. Even though I work for a developer of communities, I deeply appreciate hearing about communities opposed to development in certain locations, which pull their resources together and buy the private land and preserve and protect it. Several of the things the Nature Conservancy is doing while working with private land owners impresses the heck out of me.
On the global warming / climate change topic, I am an open skeptic. There is so much political and economic motivation, not to mention hypocrisy, behind each position that neither side can claim unbiased science. One thing I do know about nature is that change is constant and I find it extremely arrogant for men to determine an ideal number of a given species or an ideal global temperature. I am certain the Sun has a lot more to do with global climates than the puny arm of man.
I question the “true greenness” of purportedly green products, especially when you trace each product to its raw material source and the production process. I do however think long-life grocery sacks are a great idea!
Earth heals itself more quickly on its own than most are willing to admit. I’ve been to places were entire towns existed, but there is now no longer a trace. Once man left the area, nature reclaimed its own. I am encouraged in some respects that when man, through his ignorance, damages the ecosystem, that he can take measures to repair and restore it. DDT and lead shot are examples of destructive forces which I believe were done out of ignorance, but with increased knowledge and aggressive education the man-caused problems are being overcome. Unfortunately we didn’t learn quickly enough for certain species.
Sure…I might think you are nuts for believing what you believe, but I don’t hate you. I still like you for who you are with all your little quirks that make you unique. We need peaceful extremists on both sides to educate and maintain balance and reason in the universe.
I think in the end you and I both want the same thing: a beautiful planet where nature and wildlife thrive and mankind does no harm. We simply may not agree about the best way to get there.
Robert, great to “meet” another four-eyed, sometimes bearded, Mormon, human-caused global warming skeptical birder. In my case, I have a PhD in Geography and have taught physical geography including weather and climate and though it isn’t my primary field, I have read enough of the original global warming science to be skeptical about the link between carbon emissions and warming, paleoclimatic reconstructions, and measurements of modern temperature trends.
We know humans are destroying a lot of bird habitat. It is well documented. The warming, not so much.
Maybe I am a moron…or maybe I’m getting my science from other real scientists rather than politicians.
@Rob: I realize that asking someone to prove a negative is an impossible task but where are the peer-reviewed studies showing that massive amounts of CO2 are not a greenhouse gas?
And the statement that you are getting your info from “other real scientists rather than politicians” is absurd on its face considering where the scientific consensus is on global warming?
JUST LOOK AT THE OTHER GLOBAL WARMING SKEPTICS! Sarah Palin? Oil companies? James Inhoffe? If these people are right it is the first time they have ever been right, ever. If so, well, congrats for picking the one time…and what harm would come from reducing dependence on fossil fuels anyway? If, as I and many others think, they are not correct and global warming is happening what is the downside to not taking action? Pretty freaking big!
Corey, don’t trust Al Gore or Sarah Palin on this one. Just because Sarah Palin isn’t scientifically up to speed doesn’t mean that those on the global warming bandwagon are either. I hate being lumped in with shrill politicians on either side of this issue, so don’t make me guilty by association.
Here’s a bunch of climatologists and other scientists who are skeptical of global warming:
So Corey, how much do you really “know” about the “scientific consensus” around global warming? I used to “know” that CO2 was causing global warming too, but then I started digging into the science…and found that it wasn’t as clear cut as the global warming soundbites in the media make it out to be. In fact, your first clue that something is wrong here should be when you can boil down a complex system (and what is more complex than climate?) down to a simple soundbite such as more C02=warming disaster.
CO2 is a trace gas that if anything is probably a minor player in atmospheric temperature changes. You can start reading more about CO2 and why it isn’t as big a problem as you think here:
Here’s one easy to read take by a real scientist skeptical of the “consensus” position, perhaps as good a place to start as any:
Please spend some time looking into this one question of how we “know” that CO2 is destroying the planet before you claim that it is “absurd” to be skeptical.
If you really want a good analogy to what is happening here, you might look at the Ivory-billed Woodpecker fiasco. Fortunately, the confirmatory bias that contaminated that endeavor was exposed fairly early, whereas the “consensus” on the global warming scenario has been building for a much longer time and will take longer to unravel. But it is unraveling. The latest ClimateGate episode is leading many more scientists to reexamine the “consensus” that they had been going along with. Don’t trust the media that says this is no big deal. Many people including the media have a lot invested in defending their positions on global warming. It is a big deal, and real scientists know it.
@Rob: Really, I’m not going to spend my day arguing a global warming skeptic. You don’t want to be lumped in with the “shrill politicians” but you did just that to me in your initial comment. You assumed I have not spent any time looking into anything but what Al Gore says but what you link to as evidence of a lack of consensus is the petition project, which, well, if that is what you want to use as evidence, good luck to you.
You have to agree that CO2 functions as a greenhouse gas, right? And, if so, at what point do you think it would make a difference in terms of the earth’s temperature?
And, again, assuming that the skeptics are right and global warming is a massive hoax set up for, um, why would thousands of scientists work together to commit massive scientific fraud and scare the world’s populations? For all the grant money that will make them so rich? For kicks and giggles? Anyway, assuming it is all a fraud what harm would come of reducing the use of fossil fuels? Wouldn’t lowering the use of fossil fuels be good? Or do you like mountaintop removal mining, oil sands extraction, and all the rest?
As for “climategate,” please. The only folks worked up about that are the usual suspects. And what, exactly, does the media have to gain from “defending their positions on global warming?”
Anyway, I’m not going to continue to argue this out…I know where I stand on and I think it is pretty solid ground.
Corey, agreed I can’t debate you if all you throw at me is a who’s who of people, not facts. I’m a scientist. Not a politician. Not all skeptics are right wing nut jobs. And no, not yet convinced that C02 is a major greenhouse gas. Until you can persuade me of that scientifically maybe we should leave the heated rhetoric and claims about the psychology of belief or skepticism on this issue for a later date. You “think” you are on solid ground. I’d like to see you prove it to me scientifically. If you’re up to it, we can take it up offline 🙂
@Rob: I don’t know, maybe you should read the IPCC report? Or are they frauds? They certainly seem to represent a scientific consensus to me.
And you aren’t answering my questions. I asked “You have to agree that CO2 functions as a greenhouse gas, right? And, if so, at what point do you think it would make a difference in terms of the earth’s temperature?” I did not ask if it was a “major greenhouse gas.”
If you claim that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas then there is no point in discussing anything further. You are simply putting your head in the sand. If you agree that CO2 functions as a greenhouse gas then the question becomes how much CO2 is too much? Saying that CO2 is “a trace gas” means nothing: would you accept trace amounts of arsenic in your food equivalent in PPM to CO2 in the atmosphere? No, of course not, that would be crazy and suicidal.
And, again, are you opposed to reducing the amount of fossil fuels being extracted and burned? If not, then what is the problem?
Corey, you keep throwing extra stuff in here that isn’t useful. Here’s a more useful look at CO2:
Equating CO2 with arsenic isn’t useful. They aren’t at all comparable.
And let’s separate how we feel about fossil fuels from what we know about how the atmosphere works.
Rob, you don’t get to determine what is and is not useful. You minimized the effect of CO2 by referring to it as a “trace gas” as if that meant it could not have an effect on climate. I was trying to show that just because something is present in small amounts does not mean it does not have an outsize effect.
And, personally, I’ll give more weight to the IPCC report than to junkscience.com, which, according to the about page, is run by a “long time columnist for Foxnews.com” who is “a frequent advocate for free enterprise/free market principles and policies in conjunction with the Competitive Enterprise Institute.” Gee, wonder if he has an agenda?
You also still haven’t answered my questions in my last comment.
Corey, I tried to answer your question about CO2 by giving you something to read, but you have rejected it with an ad hominem attack. You haven’t indicated that you’ve read anything that I’ve mentioned yet. And I have read the IPCC report (at least big parts of it). Maybe you just don’t want to dig into the science yourself, so you are going to just rely on your chosen experts?
I used to buy the whole global warming story too. I even started a website to help educate people about the dangers of global warming. Then I spent a couple months this summer reading the science and found I couldn’t defend it scientifically. I’d like to see you engage the science, not just your suppositions about the motives of this or that “expert”.
Rob, I wasn’t asking for something to read. I was asking you to answer a question. And before I am going to take the time to read something I am going to check what, exactly, the source is to determine if it would be a waste of time. When I see someone who works for a conservative think tank I am going to skip them because I have no reason to believe what they say.
And, yes, I am going to rely on “my chosen experts.” Everyone does. That’s what a society of specialists is about. I have read some of the global-warming debunkers and I don’t buy what they say. Most of them are funded in ways that indicate that they are not going to be neutral. If you read the post that I linked to originally you would understand how I come to the opinions that I do.
I simply don’t buy the idea that there is a giant conspiracy between scientists, the media, governments, and whoever else you want to throw in to make up global warming. It makes no sense when it serves the current power structure to maintain the status quo. So, you can stick with your experts, who have the political backing of people like George W Bush and Sarah Palin, and I’ll stick with the folks who are supported by politicians who can read.
This isn’t even an issue anywhere else in the world. The U.S. is the only place where this isn’t settled science for the vast majority of the population. We’re also pretty bad on the absurd creationism/evolution debate and on basically any issue that the paleolithic right takes issue with.
I’m not going to argue this anymore because I see no point in it.
I hope that you are right and global warming is just a huge hoax but I really don’t think you are.
Dude, if you don’t trust me enough to spend a little bit of time reading what I suggest, then we really can’t have a conversation about this. But you’re right on at least one point…science is hard. From what you’ve shown me so far, you haven’t started engaging it yet
And it doesn’t have to be a hoax to be wrong. Just like Cornell and the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, sometimes people–even scientists–see what they want to (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias).
And Corey, I did read the article you first referred to. I agree with much of it. That is why I spent months becoming a “quasi-expert” and looking at original research on C02, paleoeclimate reconstructions, global temperature measurements, etc. You haven’t shown me that you’ve been willing to do that yet, which seems to have you mostly just relying on your chosen trusted experts (IPCC). You seem to have political motives for rejecting some skeptics (shoot, I don’t love a lot of global warming deniers either), but may be blinded by the limitations of your own chosen experts (the IPCC has a lot of critics, including scientists who worked within the IPCC but became disenchanted with the political nature of much of the IPCC process).
But hey, it’s your blog and I’ve outspent my welcome, so I’m not going to push this any more either.
Someday I hope we can have a conversation about the science of global warming. Meanwhile, until you’re willing to engage the science rather than just rely on the opinions of your favorite experts and politicians, this conversation is sadly over.
I’m just going to wade in for a moment with a few of the observations that inform my position on the threat of global warming…
1. I think about who stands to gain by further unregulated reliance on fossil fuels and the industrial status quo.
2. I think about who stands to gain by promoting conservation and regulation.
3. I think about who has the money.
I am not a scientist. If the majority of modern scientists hold a position, I accept the consensus. That’s why I accept thrashes global warming is an environmental issue we should all be concerned about.
I’m also a fan of capitalism and free enterprise. I draw the line at industries that try to externalized massive costs to benefit the shareholders and screw everyone else. This is about protecting the Commons, an position I suspect both Rob and Robert support in the big picture.
The US seems to have a grand tradition of collective indecision, where a small group of savvy, well-funded contrarians can make an issue seem more balanced than it truly is. Much of.the world seems to feel that we are all at risk while entrenched interests want to confuse and delay. So while I am a skeptic here, what I’m skeptical of are those trying to get over on us long enough to make more money despite the catastrophe that may await us all.
Great graphic at JoNova that discusses the actual “evidence” of global warming.