Image via Old Picture
It's a well worn occurrence at this point: in an attempt to be "fair," many institutions feel the need to lend equal credence to the views of both amateur climate change deniers and true climate scientists. Television talk shows do it, newspapers do it, even some schools do it. Perhaps most disturbingly, Congress does it—just last week, amateur global warming deniers (read: not scientists) were testifying alongside respected climate scientists at congressional hearings on climate change. And both groups get taken equally as seriously.Granted, this is a tricky situation.
The right for both sides to tell their story is a pillar of American democracy—it's why we have things like the Fairness Doctrine. But the problem with cases like this is that when climate deniers present their opinions as science alongside real scientists, their opinions get treated as scientifically credible. This skews the reality that 95% percent of the scientific community believes ardently in climate change towards an entirely unrealistic 50%. The Fairness Doctrine was never intended to promote bad science.
Take for instance the testimony of British journalist Christopher Monckton, via Solve Climate:
Monckton is not a scientist. Yet, he sat next to two climate science experts and contradicted them, telling the committee matter-of-factly that we are actually in a global cooling period.
"There is nothing in the temperature record that should give us any cause of concern today," he said. "None of the disasters envisioned by this committee will happen. The Chinese and the Indians are perfectly aware of this."
So how did the scientists hit back?
"Asked if Monckton was lying about "global cooling," Tom Karl responded that he would have to check Monckton's data but that he had never seen the numbers put together in quite that way."
Zing. Tom Karl is the director of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. Earlier in the meeting, "he cited scientific measurements showing that global temperatures and CO2 levels have increased over the past century — data that is undisputed among scientists." Karl has the disadvantage of actually being a scientist and harboring an instinct to be thorough rather than dismissive—and like many scientists called to testify, he lacks the oratory pyrotechnics that many deniers possess. But he has science on his side, right?
Monckton most certainly does not—but voices arguing for inaction are understandably apt to be appealing to legislators with already stretched budgets and other recession woes on their hands. Presenting his voice as one informed by science is downright dangerous right now, as it prevents progress from being made while time is wasted considering non-scientific evidence.
All opinions should be thoroughly debated and considered—but science should be left to scientists.
I've got an idea to give Congress a real idea about the scientific community's opinion on global warming: invite 50 scientists to testify at the next climate change hearings. Make the breakdown something like this: 47 climate scientists, and 3 deniers, to accurately reflect the current standing on the issue. Then let's see if Congress gets the picture.
More on Congressional Climate Change Deniers
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