A Republican ex-climate skeptic explains how people avoid the truth about climate change
By Barry Bickmore
Professor of Geologic Sciences, Brigham Young University
I gave a talk called How to Avoid the Truth About Climate Change for the College of Science and Health at Utah Valley University. For those of you who aren’t familiar with me, I am a Republican and a geochemist who, until a few years ago, was quite skeptical about the idea that humans are causing significant climate change.
In the presentation, I briefly talked about how I had made the transition from being a climate change skeptic to being an outspoken advocate of mainstream climate science. I then discussed how it is that people like me can so effectively avoid the truth about climate change.
My sticking points
- I thought there was lots of scientific controversy about human contributions
- I thought climate projections are based solely on complex computer models of physical systems, which (I know from experience) are easy to screw up.
- I know there is always uncertainty in science.
- There is almost no scientific debate over whether humans are largely responsible for the temperature rise over the last 50 years or so.
- There are other ways to estimate climate sensitivity (e.g. from paleoclimate data) that give about the same answer as the models.
- The uncertainty is mostly on the high end, given the data we have now [e.g., it's not whether there will be warming, but how bad it will be].
How we avoid the truth:
- We tend to believe what we want to hear
- There are always truth-challenged individuals who will tell us what we want to hear to promote political goals
- The media makes little or no effort to determine who is right
- Most people (including many scientists) have naive ideas about the nature of science