climate change

Reframing the climate debate – humility

The first comment on Monbiot’s article sums up a recurring theme: “I question the climate change panic in much the same way as ive tried to question other scares that preceded it… i do it because i like to think for myself… as opposed to having people like you do my thinking for me.”

Again and again this idea comes up of thinking for ourselves. That’s a noble ideal, but thinking for yourself means consulting expert opinion, not ignoring it and considering yourself an expert. It means seeking out evidence from both sides of the debate and weighing them up.

Most of us, many scientists included, are not capable of understanding climate change in all its complexity – and it is immensely complex. In the same way that we entrust our cars to the mechanics, or our haircuts to the barber, we have to assume that we can’t work out climate change on our own.

Scientists need humility too, because the best of us can still be wrong, and because science is an evolving discipline. New research emerges all the time, some that appears to support man-made climate change, and some that doesn’t. None of us know what will happen over the next century, and none of us should talk as if we have the final answer.

(Part of a week long series on the characteristics of the climate debate. Here’s the introduction, and part two goes up tomorrow.)

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