Recently I came across a blog post by Adam Baldwin (actor in the awesome, now defunct show Firefly) on the Big Hollywood blog.
Briefly, the blog targets a high school teacher on charges of propaganda and indoctrination of his students with the idea that global warming is caused by human activity.
In support of his attack on Benjamin Kay the science teacher, Baldwin has linked to various sites with so-called evidence that there is not a consensus among scientists regarding the claim that global warming is caused by humans. In fact, Baldwin has focused on the following statement made by Mr. Kay and casually tossed it off as false.
“There’s an actual statistic that 99% of all scientists agree that humans are exacerbating global climate change…”
The result is that his post has fueled the belief of the so-called “climate deniers”. You can see the long list of comments praising Baldwin for exposing this terrible deed and maligning the state of education today that could allow this to happen.
The problem is that all this is all untrue and is itself part of an elaborate propaganda scheme. The attack on the science teacher is unfair and the so-called facts that Baldwin uses to support his claims are flimsy and don’t hold up to scrutiny.
In response to the various claims that there is not a consensus among scientists, researchers have conducted surveys of scientific opinion and literature to ascertain objective data on whether or not this is true. Most recently, researchers at the University of Illinois in Chicago have published a paper and survey results. (also see the publishers website and abstract.) In response to the question on whether human activity is a significant contributor to global warming, 80% of all scientist agreed and among climatologists who are active in climate research, that number jumped to 97.4%. In other words, 97.4% of the scientific experts on this topic believe that humans are exacerbating global warming.
OK, Mr. Kay is not completely accurate that there is a 99% consensus among ALL scientist. However, the accusation that Mr. Kay is indoctrinating his students with false propaganda is unfair and not true. While he may oversimplify some facts and data, the overall gist of his message is not wrong. Furthermore, it’s completely unrealistic to expect high school students to truly understand and criticize the actual science of global warming. To do that requires years of advanced study, commonly known as graduate work.
(Oh, the irony, the hypocrisy! that people who themselves have little understanding of science and do not bother to educate themselves, would raise a stink over a high school class glossing over the extensive and complicated details of climate research!)
Now it is true that there are skeptics in the scientific community and I do not wish to overlook this fact. This is a good thing. A healthy dialogue in the scientific community is needed. Good science is constantly experimenting and learning about the world. As new information is brought to light, views are changed, theories are modified, etc, etc. That is not the problem. The problem is the manipulation of public perception for political and economic gain.
This has been documented several times and yet it is still going on. (See 2006 Vanity Fair article.)
If you want to talk conspiracy stories. Lets talk.
A conservative think tank long funded by ExxonMobil [snip] had offered scientists $10,000 to write articles undercutting the new report [on impeding disaster of global warming] and the computer-based climate models it is based on.
From a 2007 Newsweek article
Look. Would you consult a computer programmer about your health problems? How about an insurance adjuster? So, why is it that plenty of folks believe ExxonMobil, PR firms and the conservative think-tanks, and yet refuse to believe the scientific experts? (I have my own answer on that, btw.)
Whether you like it or not, the the reigning view among scientists is that yes, global warming is real, yes, it is a problem and yes, it is exacerbated by human activity. If you want to prove them wrong, then be my guest. Start your own experiments. Publish your data. Please! Do something. Do not, however, repeat ignorant propaganda. Do not make unfair attacks on science teachers who are just following their conscience, trying to do the right thing. There is enough misinformation out there and it’s downright shameful. It ought to be everyone’s ethical duty to avoid propagating lies, and if you don’t know, then find out.