The Mair-Cruz questioning got me a bit philosophical about the subject of trust. While Mr. Mair was initially claiming he was relying on the evidence, the data and the science, it was clear that he knew nothing about the evidence, nor the data, nor the science. It became really clear that he actually relied on the Union of Concerned Scientists/NOAA and they relayed the 97%-of-the-scientists-believe meme, which he used often in order to evade the questions.
When Mr. Mair stated that the evidence is there, he didn’t actually mean that he knew what the evidence was, but that he TRUSTED the position of the Union of Concerned Scientists and NOAA, therefor believing the claim that 97% of the scientists agreed that global warming/climate change/climate disruption is true, that the earth is now “cooking and warming” and that there is no stall in global temperatures in the satellite records.
When I look deep in myself, I surely can understand where that comes from. I realize that in the end we always need to trust someone. We can’t research everything on our own, even in a single field, let alone one that overviews many fields. We are building on the work of others who went before us. While I keep track on global warming news on a regular basis, I am far from an expert. I have a full time job and no apparent need to become a climate scientist. As a member of the public I have to have trust.
However, I can choose who to trust.
When I was a believer I trusted climate experts who appeared in the media. In everyday life we rely heavily on experts, people who have more knowledge/practice than we have. So at first sight, in cases related to global warming and climate change, it would be a no brainer to rely on the expertise of those who are being called the experts in that field.
This changed dramatically when I started looking into the matter myself and started checking the statements I heard in the media. What I found was not exactly what I expected. Here are a few of the things that are undermining the trust:
- Climate experts in the media are reporting very one-sided. For example, we hear that 97% argument, but not what exactly there is a consensus about. Or we hear that 2014 was the hottest year, but we don’t hear that global temperatures are not measured, but estimated, that there are several datasets estimating the global temperature, that the alarm was only about one dataset and that this was recently changed on a discrepancy of measurements that were not reliable in the first place. These are scary stories because they are brought that way. When both sides of the story would be given, I think there would be less or no reason for alarm.
That makes the global warming/climate change reporting basically a stacked deck, hard to trust.
- I am no big fan of the climategate emails, yet it certainly affected my view. For example, if it is really true that a group of climate scientists combine(d) efforts and are looking for ways to exclude scientists from publication via the peer review process, then I think there is a serious problem. Especially when that same peer reviewed argument is used to show to the public that these skeptical thinking scientists are not on par with their colleagues and should not be believed. That certainly does nothing to promote trust in mainstream climate scientists.
- It seems that the alarmist climate scientists ignore that they study a highly complex, coupled and chaotic system. Broadcasting in the media that they know enough to state one single element in such a system is the culprit!?!?
- Climate science seems to be intertwingled with politics. Sometimes it is as if I hear a politician talk when climate scientists makes some statement about global warming or use “settled science” to avoid debate. And is a conclusion really true or just political correct?
- The reliance on mathematical models worries me. Shouldn’t these be a tool to gain knowledge? The results that come out of those models seem to be taken for data, projecting temperatures 90 years from now and been taken as a basis for policies.
- Many of the environmental doom stories that were declared, didn’t became reality. I heard many of those already (overpopulation, the new ice age, acid rain, the ozone hole, the Arctic ice predicted ice free, more hurricanes after Katrina,…). The fields that declared them are apparently not the most reliable ones and depend on the one-sidedness of the claims or on stirring up the emotions.
This makes me tend to trust those who have a more nuanced view and take things like uncertainty, natural variability,… into account. Those people seem to reside in the skeptics or in luke warmers group. Whether they are right or wrong is of course independent on such a vision. It is not because the issue gets represented out of context that alarmists are necessarily wrong. It is not because skeptics or lukewarmers have a more nuanced view that they are necessarily right. Alarmist could well be right and those with a more realistic view could well be wrong. We can only make this choice with the knowledge we have, alarmists and skeptics alike.
One thing is for sure, in my current mindset I feel most related to the skeptics and reject my previous trust that I now believe was unwarranted.