Education and Climate Change

The more you know, the more strongly you believe your side.
In Gallup’s view, “These opposing trends by party suggest that higher levels of education reinforce core partisan positions; in this case, Republicans’ strong tendency to question or deny global warming and Democrats’ inclination to affirm it. The trends also suggest that partisanship rather than education is a main lens through which Americans view global warming and its effects, particularly for those who claim allegiance to one of the two major political parties.”
I think the explanation is simpler. It's probable that they aren't being educated in the same way. The late founder of Arts & Letters Daily was chided for setting up a parallel site, Climate Debate Daily, that provides a constant feed of good arguments from both sides of the discussion. That's not how the academy operates, especially not when teaching undergrads. Those who are inclined to skepticism will look for the skeptical arguments, and educate themselves in them; those who are not will not otherwise encounter them.

I'm inclined to think that this field is much like physics: there's a broad consensus that we're close to understanding what's going on, but a small minority of stubborn scientists who persistently poke holes in the proposed consensual theory that are hard to close again. I think that means that, most likely and in both cases, the overarching theory is analogous to Newtonian physics, and Aristotelian physics before that: it's going to give way fundamentally at a point we haven't quite identified yet.

That's still no reason to avoid being concerned about many conservationist issues, such as the excess of plastic wastes in the oceans. Those are clear and persuasive problems that we ought to try to fix.


douglas said...

They come down with the pox on both your houses verdict, but the data would not seem to preclude that one side is actually correct and one side politically blinded. Of course, I think most here know who I think is on which side of that equation.

MrSparkle said...

I see two issues with that Gallup poll, if anyone can set me at ease here;

One, "college education" doesn't mean "the more you know", it doesn't mean a great deal when we know one might have studied any number of things to any degree of depth. For example Jim Inhofe has the top environmental job in the US Senate and has an Economics degree from the early 70s (he also says we're okay because "God's still up there" - actual quote, cheers Jim).

Two, it's about a totally subjective experience of generally sensationalist news media.

There is a broad-consensus,

'Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.'

- National Aeronautics and Space Administration

NASA runs a whole website about this.

Eric Blair said...

And there's a good chance that NASA is cooking it's own books on the subject, if anything this guy says is true:

3100 responses out of 10,000 people asked doesn't even begin to be 97%, just on the face of it. It begins to look like that classic advertising pitch "4 out of 5 dentists agree..."

Which then makes one wonder what is NASA selling? Especially when one can go back to the 1960's and 1970's and find that there was a 'consensus' that the Earth was cooling. There was going to be another ice age etc etc etc

Grim said...

I think it may both be true that (a) there is a broad consensus, and (b) that it's nowhere near 97%.

But what if it were? There was something approaching 100% consensus on the validity of Aristotelian physics, which required the Earth be at the center of the universe. Newton's physics were so persuasive that it convinced generations of serious thinkers to take determinism seriously. It turns out that the idea that things can be determined by efficient cause at the mid-scale of observations is a fundamental error; that's just not how the universe works.

For centuries, though, it seemed like it was exactly how the universe worked -- except for a few minor problems we hadn't ironed out yet.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't worry about pollution or the oceans becoming more acidic. It just means that the consensus' size or persuasiveness isn't telling as to its truth.

MikeD said...

Science does not, nor has it ever operated based upon "consensus". Anyone who hides behind "consensus" while refusing to turn over their data demonstrating how they achieved their results in an experiment (thus preventing replication and outside verification) are not engaging in science.

To me, I could absolutely accept the concept of anthroprogenic global warming, were it not for two things. One, the supporters of the theory absolutely and unequivocally refuse to release their raw data and the algorithms used to manipulate it in their models (to the extent they've refused to respond to freedom of information act requests for the data). And two, their modeled results absolutely do not match the historical record. They have made claims dating back to the very first IPCC at the UN that have been revised downwards on a yearly basis due to their doomsday predictions failing to materialize. Do not take my word for it, pull up the projected climate estimates from the IPCC report in 1990 where it was claimed that by this time (2015) there would be an overall increase of about 1 degree Centigrade and an increase in global sea levels of approximately 15cm (or about 6-7"). Neither of which has materialized.

So we are presented with models that do not match reality, a group of scientists who refuse to share their data (allowing repeatable experimental results... the very essence of the Scientific Method), and that same group hides behind the aegis of "consensus" when questioned on it. This isn't science.