What skeptics say and what alarmists hear

At the end of last month, scientias.nl (a Dutch science news site), published an article called: American Senate: “Climate change is no hoax” (Dutch) about the U.S. Senate voting on whether climate change is a hoax.

I must agree that I am not really impressed by politicians voting whether global warming is true or not, but in this case it is not particularly interesting what is being said, but how it is being reported. The author describes that, in the wake of the Keystone XL pipeline bill, Democrats in the U.S. senate proposed to vote an amendment that “Climate change is real and not a hoax”. Which was adopted 98 against 1 (apparently a Democrat). So all Republicans votes for. He then makes the allusion that senator James Inhofe didn’t believe that climate change is a hoax anymore because he votes “Yes” to that resolution, despite having written the book “The Greatest Hoax”.

I had to chuckle reading this.

“Climate change is real” is such a broad term, it could mean about anything. “Climate change” is not really defined, so it could be everything from “climate changes, that is what it does” (the skeptic position) to “we humans change the climate in a dangerous way” (the alarmist position). The author’s vision is probably going more towards the latter definition. And he didn’t seem to grasp Inhofe’s perception even when quoting him that “the climate is indeed changing, but that the hoax is people actually thinking they can change the climate”.

I got more interested in what was really said. Although Scientias (and other media) only reported on this specific amendment and Inhofe assumingly seeing the light, I found there were actually more amendments voted. A related one was that human activity significantly contributes to climate change. This time 49 of 54 Republicans voted against, therefor disproving the amendment. This put a different light on the issue, but was for some reason not reported by Scientias.

Now I had to chuckle even more.

It remembered me strongly to the Doran & Zimmerman survey. In it two questions were asked:

  1. whether mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen or remained relatively constant
  2. and whether human activity is a significant contributing factor to this.

The problem with the Doran & Zimmerman survey was that the definitions were very broad and not clear, making the conclusion meaningless. This is no different here. How one perceive these questions depends heavily on the definition one has of “climate change”. It is a stubborn misconception among alarmists that skeptics “deny” climate change. To me this has to do with their own definition of climate change, meaning human induced dangerous climate change. In that sense it is no surprise that the viewpoint of skeptics is misunderstood.

Most skeptics don’t deny climate change. They believe that climate changes, has always changed and will always change. Also that humans have some influence on temperatures, but not necessarily in a catastrophic way. In the same way that skeptic scientists could agree that global temperatures rose and that humans had some influence on that, without considering it catastrophic.

This makes that it is no real surprising thing that for example someone as Inhofe votes “Yes” to the question whether climate change is real or not. Even after having written a book on the subject, there is no contradiction. The only contradiction is created by the inability of the author to understand the standpoint of the skeptics. Add to this that they think their viewpoint is the only one that is right and that of the skeptics are wrong by definition, to make the gap even bigger.

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