Pseudoscience In The Realm Of Climate Change

Pseudoscience is basically the go to plan for politicians and persistent deniers when it comes to climate change. Utilising the concept as a tool to debunk climate scientists and raw scientific research has been at the forefront of guiding the denialist movement. This is why the mere use of the term to describe climate change is absurd. As we explained in the previous post, pseudoscience is everything real science is not. That is, a certain belief or claim is presented and promoted without any reliable scientific evidence as proof. In an attempt to extend the spotlight on false claims, discredited and non-peer reviewed research are also involved in the process. You’re probably wondering how such a ludicrous case is continually perpetuated in modern society. Well, history shows us that pseudoscience has always attempted to overshadow radical claims made by scientists, particularly in relation to the natural world.

Let us not forget that continental drift was once considered a laughing matter. German meteorologist Alfred Wegener first proposed the idea over a hundred years ago. However, in Wegener’s time, any and all concepts of geology were severely  underdeveloped.

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Science is naturally worrying for a lot of people because the scientific method enables for major discoveries. This usually means a drastic altering of our thinking process, which immediately comes across as slightly threatening to some people. Human beings inherently detest inconvenience, which is a side effect of change. The reality of climate change is that we have to change our regular, routinised habits. This is what it means to effectively act on climate. Denying climate change, on the other hand, is far more convenient both in a physical and emotional sense. It can be draining to consistently worry and think about the issue. It’s also a real struggle for others to make living adjustments according to what is more environmentally friendly. Hence, the ease of listening to the pseudoscience side of things is far more attractive than being told to give up meat for instance. It’s very easy to see why pseudoscience advances the state of denial in relation to climate change.

“I worry that, especially as the Millennium edges nearer, pseudoscience and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive”. – Carl Sagan.

Image:

http://www.softpanorama.org/Skeptics/index.shtml

A Standard Case Of Denial

In the past, you may have found climate change Denialism rather humorous. Hearing older family members scoff at news reports on climate change may not have bothered you too much. In fact, you might have tended to agree with their stance. Famed psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky penned an intriguing article on why the human mind will choose to reject the science of climate change. He also has an eye-opening explanation to general denialists. He points out the impact “identity-protective cognition” can have on one’s ability to happily engage with the issue of climate change. It involves resistance to change due to long-held practices and ideals.

Climate change is an issue that requires both mental and physical change, which is a rather difficult thing to ask of people. However, from personal experience, one can choose to accept the fact that climate change exists but not do anything about it. For example, we have asked friends and family why they don’t install solar panels. They reply with the fact that they are rather costly. Instead, the money that can be used for solar panels will be spent on a trip to the mall. This is how we view the workings of denialists. They are not necessarily focusing on conspiracies or myths. Rather, they have done well to tone down the urgency and necessity to have all people engaged and actively aware of its threat. Which is why effective communication and media correspondence is essential to gaining and spreading awareness of the issue. 

Lewandowsky goes on to concisely explain what it means to deny climate change:

“Climate denial is therefore perhaps best understood as a rational activity that replaces a coherent body of science with an incoherent and conspiracist body of pseudo-science for political or psychological reasons.”

Of course, expert deniers will continue to say things like the pseudo-scientific goose chases associated with man-made global warming hurt legitimate science. 

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Now, if you’re wondering what on earth pseudoscience is, it falsely presents non-scientific claims as scientific. Non-scientific claims arise out of the basic rejection of the scientific method. That is, no actual scientific observations, experiments, or the recording of data took place. In this case, climate change deniers will take their firm beliefs and simply run with it under the guise of “science”.

However, climate change denial as a form of pseudoscience is a vast topic which we will be covering in depth in a later post, so stay tuned.

Image:
http://www.azquotes.com/quote/1423671

Water, And More Water

This will be a little follow-up to the previous blog. We hope you were able to gain a better perspective on the inner workings of a typical Denialist site. But, if it also sparked your curiosity for a better understanding of sea level rise, then look no further. Firstly, it is important to understand that even a small change in sea levels contributes to significant damage. It is also crucial to note that sea level rise is one of, if not, the most important and detrimental effect of climate change. Which is why you’ll find multiple Denialists working extra hard to soften or rebut the evidence that proves its impending severity.

Global rising temperatures are heavily impacting on the Arctic. Increased amount of warm days has seen a record low sea ice extent, as reported by Grist. Not only that but, sea ice has been in sharp decline for the past seven months. If you need a sensory experience of this, then watch this 10-second video that depicts the Arctic sea ice melting in 2016. Basic science will tell you that the effect of warm water temperatures is an expansion of the ocean and melting ice means more water in our oceans, which essentially means tons and tons of more water making up the earth. Not only are such findings critical for the polar bears or coastal regions due to heightened threats of flooding and coastal erosion. But, rising sea levels also impact on the economy, clean water, agriculture, and wildlife populations.

In 2014, The Conversation reported sea levels in Darwin, Australia had risen by 17 centimeters over the past 20 years. The below illustrates the reality for the people of Darwin at the time. And if you’re thinking 17 centimeters in 20 years isn’t that drastic, well it is because “raising the underlying base makes a big difference, not just to the ultimate penetration of big tides and storm surges, but also in the everyday hydrodynamic fluxes on beaches, estuaries, and floodplains.”

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Also, it was only a year ago when Florida endured heavy floods due to high tides, which leaves it to be the most vulnerable to rising sea levels because of its low elevation. Flooding is, therefore, more likely to occur at a frequent rate. The graph below from the University of Miami indicates the significant increases of high tides leading to flooding events. For more information, check out the study conducted by the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science.

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With all this, denialists such as Trump will continue to say foolish things like “I’m not a big believer in man-made climate change”. He also has plans to retract the US from the Paris Climate Agreement, which is in place to reduce carbon emissions that cause global warming. This is essentially a big step in the wrong direction. We need leaders that not only understand and trust the science, but that are in constant communication with climate scientists and giving them a platform to better voice the issues and solutions to climate change.

One main point to take away is that the changes occurring now are irreversible. We are simply past the stage of undoing human impact. However, we can redeem ourselves by working with the planet. Adapting to the current changes in sea level rise will enable the greater potential for both future generations and the earth to thrive.

 

References

Campbell, A & Garnett, S 2014, ‘A wet warning from Australia’s top end on rising sea levels’, The Conversation.

Images:

https://theconversation.com/a-wet-warning-from-australias-top-end-on-rising-sea-levels-22934

http://www.rsmas.miami.edu/news-events/press-releases/2016/new-study-shows-increased-flooding-accelerated-sea-level-rise-in-miami-over/

Method To The Denial

What we find is happening more and more is that climate change Denialists has taken an alternative route to the topic of climate change. Rather than completely dismissing climate change altogether, they acknowledge its existence (though very wearily) but will instead downplay its severity. For example, a highly well-known climate change Denialist site is Wattsupwiththat. This site is an excellent example of integrating scientific evidence with wishful thinking in order to give the impression that they do know what they’re talking about. They are also incredibly subtle in their denialism so as not to appear completely foolish to an audience with differing amounts of knowledge or experience on the topic. In doing so, they not only reach a greater amount of people, but they also earn their trust.

One example of this is an article they published on sea level rise with the following heading:

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Whilst this kind of headline may be easier to digest than say warnings of large cities being swallowed by the ocean in the future…

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It does very little to highlight the actual impact continually rising sea levels will have such as damaging coastal ecosystems, frequent flooding, and negatively affecting the economy (which is something you probably hadn’t thought of). Instead, it goes out of its way to squeeze in multiple sources that are filled with complex mathematics and scientific jargon.

“From the IPCC FAR Chapter 5.5.2: Holgate and Woodworth (2004) estimated a rate of 1.7 ± 0.4 mm yr–1 sea level change averaged along the global coastline during the period 1948 to 2002, based on data from 177 stations divided into 13 regions. Church et al. (2004) (discussed further below) determined a global rise of 1.8 ± 0.3 mm yr–1 during 1950 to 2000, and Church and White (2006) determined a change of 1.7 ± 0.3 mm yr–1 for the 20th century.”

How could the everyday person even begin to interpret all this? The answer is simple. They don’t. But the mere fact that they can’t will often encourage them to side with the notion that “it’s not a big deal” because it’s been confidently explained that it isn’t. The topic of rising sea levels is somewhat tricky. Levels vary because it all depends on how much ice melts, which is of course sometimes unpredictable. This makes it an easy target for Denialists due to the changing information that can be found online. We encourage greater depth of research to fact-check claims made by Denialists. And, if you’re unsure whether you’ve stumbled upon a Denialist site, fact-check it anyway. There’s nothing wrong with gaining a bit of extra knowledge, especially when it’s on climate change.

Image source: http://thefederalistpapers.org/us/flashback-abc-news-warns-nyc-will-be-under-water-by-2015-due-to-global-warming

Climate Change Denial? Huh?

Climate change denialism is a very real issue that is too often not pressed upon by the media. Whilst it is important to be having discussions on the severity of climate change, it is even more critical that we first identify and understand the Denialist movement. This is crucial because widespread denialism of climate change hinders on potential innovative progress. We have the tools and capability to tackle the threat of climate change. But, if we as a society are not collectively on board and actively pursuing change on the matter, then technological advancements essentially go to waste. This is why the campaign will aim to “Cool Down The Denial”. 

First of all, a little background on the who, what and how. Essentially, it comes down to two categories of people. We have the innocent, ordinary citizen on the street that has been manipulated to think a certain way because of framing strategies formed by the media in general. More importantly, however, are the powerful groups of people, which include politicians and those involved in the fossil fuel industry. These upper echelons are responsible for the persistent dissemination of false information. You might be thinking why? Why on earth would people insistently put the earth at risk when there is an overwhelming scientific consensus on the fact that climate change is real and it is happening? Well, really what it comes down to is fear of changing power structures. Powerful people have only one thing in mind, and that is to remain powerful. If all of the society strongly believed in climate change and vigorously voiced their concerns on the matter, this would mean cooperatively turning to different sources of energy – renewable energy. Unfortunately, this is a problem for the corporate people because it creates a society that is less reliant on fossil fuels.

Of course, it is very clear how powerful the Denialist organisation is to have continued such a robust opposition to climate change. They could be viewed as an organised gang. They are deceitful, shrewd, and well funded by authoritative contacts. They are also not easily detectable, which strengthens their level of influence. Thankfully, there is a greater understanding of their leaders. Greenpeace highlighted the role of the Koch Brothers in delaying climate change action. They have funneled over 88 million dollars to “climate-denial front groups”. It is now up to us to share such information with our friends and followers across multiple media platforms. We are equipped with sufficient communicative tools but if they are not utilized to expose such truths, then they are ultimately made redundant. Hence, there must first be attitudinal change before society can collectively proceed with tackling climate change.

 

References

Greenpeace, ‘Koch Industries: Secretly funding the climate denial machine’, accessed 1 September 2016, <http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/global-warming/climate-deniers/koch-industries/>.

Image: http://blog.ucsusa.org/andrew-rosenberg/through-the-looking-glass-climate-change-denial-conflict-of-interest-and-connecting-science-to-policy-297