Data, and Trust in Science
The Burden of Proof is on Science but ’twas ever thus….
The arguments from climate change sceptics ultimately hinge around the general perception of aloofness and intangibility that hang round science and scientists. The trouble is that some people are basically innumerate and no amount of trying will make them any better. It’s the same with painting and art – there’s absolutely no way I could paint oils on canvas as a representation of reality – it’s the way it is. The difference, of course, is that I can recognise genius and skill and thus accept that some people really are better than me…. And because they are better than me, I trust their judgement.
Unfortunately, there are a host of climate sceptics, many of whom are psuedo-scientists or sensationalists, whose reasonless bark is loud and because of this, undue credence sticks to them. A similar crowd exist who will baselessly question every statement from a host of trained and experienced professionals; teachers, scientists, engineers – despite the fact that they themselves have minimal knowledge. This is the trouble with a “customer is always right” approach. Obviously, hairdressing and football punditry are totally different skills to the statistics attached to carbon dating. Yet a hairdresser’s opinion on global warming somehow has the same weighting as a scientist’s opinion of a haircuit? For most people, I think so!
Now back to climate change. The two things we need are:
- better numbers (always, always, accuracy improves the positioning of the goal posts!)
- a general belief that scientists are doing their best.
But in the general public’s mind,
- satellites are good for making mobile phones and their sat-nav work. That’s it, apart from non-stick frying pans. Anything else is a waste of money that should be used to bring down taxes or feed starving Africans.
- they think scientists are pulling the wool over their eyes all the time and are not working for the best. Their proof is that they don’t understand numbers.
It’s the nature of our modern “news bite” and reality show TV world. If time was taken to explain properly and listen clearly, the loss of Earth-watching satellites would be seen as a true catastrophe for us all. But they’re not seen as such. And because the satellites have failed, the lack of good knowledge allows the sceptics to drip, drip, away at the validity of science.
Because satnav and mobile phones work, it’s assumed that science is precise and clear-cut.
Well science tries to be accurate, but it’s rarely clear-cut. Like the whole of quantum physics, everything is an approximation, depending how close you wish to examine something – and this, this is the core for scientific misunderstanding. In science, NOTHING is a foot long and weighs a pound. Something will be ABOUT a foot long and ABOUT a pound – but never ever exactly so.
This is the accuracy that’s needed to prove anthropomorphic climate change as an indisputable fact, if not it’s magnitude. The recent OCO failure is a case in point. Back in 2005, the European CryoSat failed. It’s job was to better accurately measure the ice extent of the world. It had taken seven years to make it to the launch pad! For four years now, we’ve been lacking this real, good, data. That is, it’s now eleven years since the original plan for the satellite. 11 years without good data – a real boon to the sceptics and vested interests of stagnant industry. In that time, America’s Bush mentality has been allowed to flourish, penalising the world into it’s current impasse. The dearth of really good data has helped promote us all to this dire position, despite all the statistical and visual evidence that each time it’s published, falls on the side of a warming and melting world. Good information has been successively ignored by the whole Bush hysteria, set on some bizarre war footing to prolong their existence.
Later this year CryoSat II goes up from Russia.
Let’s all hope it makes it!