One of the reasons there are so many climate change naysayers is simple: most of us don’t really understand what makes science…science. When a new study was published saying a beer a day might actually be good for you, the media jumps all over it — but not in a bad way. Everyone uses it as an excuse to drink another beer every once in a while. And why not? Apparently science says the beer might be good for you!
But that’s not the way science really works.
After a study like that is published, scientists around the world will inevitably tear it to shreds — because, remember, the point of science is to remain skeptical — by pointing out a study’s many flaws. Eventually someone else will conduct another study with fewer flaws. If the study confirms the findings of the first flawed study, then great. If not, well then that’s great too.
Eventually a number of studies on a given subject will have been conducted, and there will be a general consensus among them about a given conclusion that someone once hypothesized (or one that someone didn’t). That’s science. Science doesn’t reflect a single study. It reflects a wealth of studies, which eventually give us an idea of how something works.
The inclination toward buzz-worthy headlines is why so many people distrust science. Eventually the buzz-worthy headline is overturned by the next study, and people always tend to ask themselves why they should believe anything science says when apparently it’s always flipping back and forth. It isn’t, but we trust what we see (ironically the definition of science) and we see science flip flopping (even though it really doesn’t) because the media showcases it that way.
The science of climate change tells us with overwhelming certainty — based on literally thousands of studies — that humans are responsible for everything that is happening to this planet, and everything that will happen in the next few decades. And we mean that when we say that: “few decades.” This is happening right now, and it’s happening fast. We know this. It isn’t up for debate.
What’s worse, there’s an obvious trend with each new collection of studies published: it’s always a lot worse than we thought it was. Scientists have only recently discovered that the permafrost in Arctic Canada is melting ahead of schedule by a devastating seventy years. That’s big news, but of course no one believes science, so who can even say how much difference it might make in forging new policy here or abroad? Probably not much at all.
We have a president and vice president who continually denounce the conclusions about climate change studies conducted by their own administration, arguing that we’re at least doing something and asking why we should be doing more when countries like China are doing absolutely nothing. Pence recently made this point, but we guess no one informed him that China is actually leading the pack in almost all renewable growth and reducing reliance on fossil fuels. And people believe him, because, well, they just do. It doesn’t matter that China is doing more than anyone else. It never did.
So what do we do now? We fight like hell, because what else can we do?