Saturday, January 4, 2014

Science Saturday: The science deniers

The ice is thick in Antarctica. Moreover, there are record cold temperatures in the Northeast and Midwest. There have even been cold days recently here in Southeast Texas. Therefore, global warming must be a hoax, because if it is cold where I am at the moment, then the idea that Earth is heating up is a fallacy. At least, that is the theory of the climate change deniers as gleefully expressed on Twitter, right wing talk radio, and Fox News this week.

Of course, none of these wackos acknowledge the fact that while Antarctica is always cold and it is cold in winter in the northern hemisphere, in the southern hemisphere, many places are experiencing record heat waves. Australia, for example, where temperatures are expected to be above 120 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas over the next few days.  And Earth overall IS  warming up. Alarmingly.

The reasons for record cold temperatures in the northern hemisphere in winter and for record storms throughout the year are explained by the models on global climate change that have been constructed by actual climate scientists. These explanations have been repeated ad infinitum in recent years, but, of course, the nonbelievers never listen to these discussions. It really is very simple, as explained on the Climate Desk in Slate.com.
1. Statements about climate trends must be based on, er, trends. Not individual events or occurrences. Weather is not climate, and anecdotes are not statistics.

2. Global warming is actually expected to increase “heavy precipitation in winter storms,” and for the Northern Hemisphere, there is evidence that these storms are already more frequent and intense, according to the draft U.S. National Climate Assessment.

3. Antarctica is a very cold place. But global warming is affecting it as predicted: Antarctica is losing ice overall, according to the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. However, sea ice is a different matter than land-based or glacial ice. Antarctic sea ice is increasing, and moreover, the reason for this may be climate change! (For more, read here.)
Rush Limbaugh likely doesn't read such articles and I am quite sure that Donald Trump doesn't, so no doubt they will continue their "I told you so" tweets and radio rants throughout the winter months of the northern hemisphere. But that won't change the fact that it is 120 degrees in Australia, and I expect they will fall strangely silent on the subject along about June, July, August, September, etc., when the Northeast and Midwest, as well as the rest of the country, are broiling.

Unfortunately, it is not just climate science that these people deny. They've rejected the most basic of scientific principles like evolution, too.

Indeed, there was a Pew poll released just this week that showed that a plurality of Republicans (who are the overwhelming majority among science deniers) now reject the idea that complex organisms have evolved from simpler organisms from eons ago. They mostly adhere to the idea that a creator outside of Nature somehow started everything from the single-celled organism to the most complicated creatures and plants on Earth with a wave of his/her/its (of course, in their thoughts it is His)  hand and that none of those creations has changed since that moment.

They also, for the most part, accept that there was once a worldwide flood which destroyed everything except the lucky critters that were in Noah's ark and, furthermore, that humans once rode on dinosaurs! Such are the ideas behind institutions like the Creation Museum.

This is all low-hanging fruit for late-night comedians, but it is a sad fact for our country. The science denialism of a substantial portion of our population is holding back progress on many problems which we face, perhaps most notably the inferior education which many of our children receive. Until we can, as a country, accept scientific fact as truth and act accordingly, our country and, actually, the whole world will suffer from our continued militant ignorance.   

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