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Teaching the Climate debate?

Posted by Don McLenaghen on July 19, 2010

We have talked on the show many times about what we call the inappropriate inclusion into the science classes ‘theories’ that are either non-scientific or proven wrong. Mostly we talk about Creationism or Intelligent <chuckle> design but we have also at times included Holocaust denial, flat earth believers, and social racism. I have recently heard of a new movement headed by climate-deniers. Those who hold to the idea any one of the ideas that a) there is no such thing as climate change; b) if there is climate change it is NOT human activities have nothing or little to do with it; c) its natural as the planet can deal with it so we should do nothing; and number who think d) its gods plan and we should help hasten the rapture/end-times.

Okay that last one is not talked about in non-theological circles much but the others are. People like myself think this is a corporatist initiative to prevent real change in our ‘energy economy’ so as to protect both the profits of business but also the lifestyle of the ‘average’ American. In a growing number of school districts (yes, only in the US but what starts south often moves north), including the infamous Texas school board; there has been a movement to ‘edit’ the science curriculum to include the ‘debate’ about climate change. I think this is equivalent to teaching the ‘debate’ about evolution and simple a way to promote political ideology as science. Others I know think it worse. People ignorant of evolution may limit our advancement but ignorance of climate change could lead to the end of civilization as we know it.  Personal, in my darkest more depressed moments, i think this may be the only way to bring about real change that many people (mostly on the left) think need to be done.

That aside, it does I think bring up an interesting point for the skeptic community. Were as there is little debate about the law of evolution (while acknowledging the mechanisms are still in much debate); does this certainty translate to the global warming? Michael Shermer, one of the biggies in the skeptic community, was a denier until only a few years ago. So, the question, should we be as active against the ‘climate change deniers’ as we are the creationist or is this a grayer area? Should we enforce ‘global warming’ while still acknowledging the mechanisms are still debatable? In many progressive science classes, not only is global warming taught but also the fact it is bad (a separate question I think) and that curtain actions (often anti-consumerist, which I would support even in the absence of climate change) to slow, stop and/or reverse the warming trend. Is this ‘environmental’ activism any different than the climate change deniers?

No answers, just a thought…what’s yours?


One Response to “Teaching the Climate debate?”

  1. O'Geary said

    The question “should we as sceptics be sceptical of man-made global warming” is not well posed.

    There are a number of stances on the MMGW hypothesis. To take three:

    Human activity is causing the planet to warm dramaticaly and this will have catastrophic consequences.

    The planet has warmed slightly over the past 25 years and part of this is likely to have been brought about by human activity.

    There has been no significant recent warming and so there is no human responsibilty.

    Since the climate debate is very recent, since the warming record is so brief and since future models are highly variable and untestable, anyone who considers themselves a sceptic must submit ALL stances on MMGW to critical scrutiny.

    The analogy with evolution theory is untanable. ET is based on fossil records (among other studies) going back millions of years. The case for MMGW hypothesis rests on a temperature record (which some say is not entirely reliable anyway) of just 25 years.

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