The Real Global Warming Debate

Global Warming DenialRecent research proves it: scientific opinions on global warming really do differ. The executive director of the National Physical Science Consortium, James Lawrence Powell, looked at every peer reviewed journal article he could find on the subject of global warming in 2013. He found 10,855. Of those two did not accept that the earth was experiencing human caused global warming. Two percent, you ask? No. Two articles. That’s 0.018 percent, or just 0.00018 if you like simple fractions.

Let’s give this some perspective. Four percent of Americans think that “shape-shifting reptilian people control our world by taking on human form and gaining political power to manipulate our societies.” That’s over 200 times more credible than global warming denial. A full six percent of Democrats think that Obama is the Antichrist. That’s 300 times more credible. Twenty-seven percent of Americans think that Jesus is “definitely” coming back in the next 40 years. That’s 1,500 more credible!

Now, it’s true: Powell’s work is not on scientists; it’s on scientific papers. And there are reasons why climate change deniers might not publish. One thing could be that they just can’t get papers published because of institutional inertia. But that isn’t as credible a reason as you might think. Journals like Nature and Science are desperate to publish shocking and disruptive papers. So what generally stops these supposedly shocking papers from being published is that they are bad science. I’ve read a number of Heartland Institute papers and they are all the same: they cherry pick data. Any data that conflict with their thesis is simply ignored, not even argued against.

But the fact that there are basically no papers most likely indicates that global warming denial is not a scientific enterprise. It is something done by people with ideological axes to grind. They don’t have to do science; they just know. So they aren’t scientists and it is wrong to say that the science is divided on the point.

It rather reminds me of the Ken Ham and Bill Nye debate. Repeatedly, Ham said something along the lines of, “You have your scientists and we have ours.” Well, sure. In the debate, it was clear that by “scientists,” he meant “two scientists,” because he brought the same two guys up again and again. And that’s about what we have in the global warming debate.

I don’t think that Powell’s work is definitive. I’m sure there were more than two real scientific papers published last year that had skeptical authors. But they are skeptical about little things. They aren’t out there thinking that if they could just get their big break they’d blow the lid off this vast scientific and political conspiracy. But that’s what the ideologues think. It just ain’t so.

The next time you hear about the scientific debate that is raging over human caused global warming, remember the kind of scale they are talking about. On one side: 10,853 articles. On the other: 2 articles. Going with the 2 article side is like not wearing a motorcycle helmet because in an accident, it might fall off and land on your toe.

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