Christians, Conservatives, and Climate Change. Oh my! For some odd reason, scientific consensus has become a bipartisan and/or religious issue. The idea of empirical evidence being rejected for political or religious reasons saddens me.
As someone who identifies himself as “Right-wing”, I think our side has quite a bit of pseudoscientific ideas. When a fact is presented, regardless if we don’t like it, we need to accept it if we value honesty and intellectual integrity.
I realize that someone who knows X is true and rejects it for other reasons knowingly is rare. Obviously, if you thought X was true, you’d believe X is true. I do not question that people are sincere in their beliefs and truly believe they’re on the side of the evidence.
I want to get this part out of the way before we get into the evidence. The idea of scientific consensus gets throw around on various social media posts, but consensus is not the same thing as an appeal to popularity or authority. An appeal to popularity would be saying because it is popular, it is true. An appeal to authority would be because they’re scientists, they’re right and you’re wrong. Neither of these should be occurring when someone brings up the scientific consensus, though I’m sure you could show me an unreasonable lazy thinker who just points out the percentage of scientists and then mocks you.
Scientific consensus is not a part of the scientific method, it is a consequence of it. It is not an opinion poll. Just like the term “theory” means something different than the colloquial usage, “consensus” means something different than its colloquial usage. Consensus isn’t a popularity contest in Science, rather, it is a weighting of the evidence. This is why when fringe scientists disagree, they’re ignored unless they bring up a weightier evidential justification for their disagreement.
Climate Denier One-Liners
There are a few pithy one-liners that climate deniers use that aren’t particularly helpful. Sharing memes on the internet about how cold it is this winter is not a refutation of climate change. Blaming Al Gore won’t get you anywhere either. The dismissive attitude towards such an important issue is alarming to say the least.
Myths Against Climate Change
Myth #1 It’s not happening
Former Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin once stated: “…these global warming studies that we’re now seeing (are) a bunch of snake oil science.”
Contra Mrs. Palin, the 2009 state of the climate report of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (released mid 2010) came to the conclusion that the independent lines of evidence all point to the fact that the Earth is warming. This layman accessible 10-page summary of their conclusion can be found here.
Myth #2 The Climate’s Changed Before
This popular objection to climate science fails to take into account the reality of the effects of Greenhouse gases. CO2 and methane were huge contributors of most of the climate changes in Earth’s history. When CO2 increases, the temperature increases. When decreases, the temperature decreases. Humans have increase CO2 production by a large margin. So, it logically follows that anthropocentric climate change is occurring.
Abrupt vs Slow Change
Life was flourishing in the Eocene and other times of high CO2 in the atmosphere because the greenhouse gases were balanced with the carbon in the oceans.
Lush life in the Arctic during the Eocene, 50 million years ago (original art – Stephen C. Quinn, The American Museum of Natural History, N.Y.C)
When Global warming did happen in the past, it was destructive to the species of that period. (Triassic, Mid-Cambrian)
So yeah, obviously the climate has changed before humans, that is not in dispute. What the problem is that the symptoms of these destructive events in certain periods are the same symptoms we see with the increase of Co2. (Increase in Global Temperatures, rising sea levels.)
Myth #3 It’s All The Sun’s Fault
The Sun has actually shown a cooling trend while temperatures are increasing. The Sun cannot be the main controlling factor when the energy levels are lowering while the temperature is rising.
Below is a chart that shows the sun’s 11 year cycle of energy compared to the temperature.
credit: Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics LISIRD site.
Myth #4 Animals and Plants Can Adapt
Southeast Asian extinctions projected due to habitat loss (source: Sodhi, N. S., Koh, L. P., Brook, B. W. & Ng, P. K. L. 2004)
A large amount of extinctions have been causally linked to global warming.[i]
Theological Objections to Climate Change
In reality, there really isn’t a theological objection to climate change. The Concordist can easily fit it into their model and the ANE non-concordist has no need to defend it on biblical grounds. The rejection of climate change seems purely political. It’s what “my party” believes, what my friends believe etc. rather than an actual objection. I recommend a very interesting work that evaluates the relationship between Christian theology and Climate Change.[ii]
Since 1950, the atmospheric carbon dioxide has never been above around 300 parts per million. After 1950, the carbon levels are now closer to 400. [iii]It is 95 percent probable that humans are involved [iv]in this carbon dioxide increase.[v] Politics are more at play than theology in the Christian rejection of Climate Change.
[i] Botkin & Saxe et al. “Forecasting The Effects of Global Warming on Biodiversity” BioScience Vol 63 Issue 12 published in The American Institute of Biological Science.
[iii] B.D. Santer et.al., “A search for human influences on the thermal structure of the atmosphere,” Nature vol 382, 4 July 1996, 39-46
[iv] Gabriele C. Hegerl, “Detecting Greenhouse-Gas-Induced Climate Change with an Optimal Fingerprint Method,” Journal of Climate, v. 9, October 1996, 2281-2306
[v] B.D. Santer et.al., “Contributions of Anthropogenic and Natural Forcing to Recent Tropopause Height Changes,” Science vol. 301 (25 July 2003), 479-483.