Going back to scientific square one

Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Perhaps we've been going about this the wrong way.

Every time a conservative pops off about how climate change is a big hoax and amounts to nothing but a huge conspiracy to blah, blah, blah, the standard response has been to point to all the reams of technical data and in-depth peer-reviewed studies that have accumulated over the decades showing that the globe is warming and that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are largely responsible.

And, of course, it never works. No amount of detailed scientific data on climate change seems to convince them otherwise. And that's always been a bit of a mystery. At least, it was a mystery until I read NewsBusters this afternoon and saw this headline: "Journalists Freeze Waiting To Get Into Global Warming Conference." Without even the faintest glimmer of knowing irony, NewsBuster Noel Sheppard wrote:

A group of journalists stood for many hours in near-freezing temperatures Monday waiting to get into the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen.

Marvelously among them was Associated Press science writer Seth Borenstein who regularly reports on the dire consequences of -- wait for it! -- global warming.

You see, Noel Sheppard thinks that the fact that it's cold in Scandinavia in mid-December means there's no global warming ...

And then it dawned on me. There's a reason all the technical climate science data does nothing to convince conservatives like Noel Sheppard that climate change is real -- because they're too abysmally thick to grasp even the basic idea of latitude.

OK, perhaps it's not fair to call someone "abysmally thick" based on one stupid thing they wrote -- you'd have to look at the entirety of their published works to make such a decision. And that's also the reason why it's stupid to say that a cold day in Copenhagen means there is no global warming. Climate science is the study of how the global climate changes over long periods of time, not the temperature on a given day in one Nordic capital. A cold day in Copenhagen proves nothing one way or the other, nor does the record-high temperature that was set 12 days ago in Albany, New York.

I always knew that for a real debate on climate change to be possible, some basic scientific literacy was necessary. But I never imagined it would have to be as basic as "it's supposed to be cold in Scandinavia."

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