For everyone on the planet other than the miniscule fraction who get paid by government to study it, global climate change is not an issue of science. Essentially none of us have direct knowledge or experience of the data or the arcane calculations involved – and even if we did, we wouldn’t know what to do with any of it.
So what does this mean for the 99.999% of the world’s population whose opinion on the science is less than irrelevant?
It means we need to be self-consciously aware of what we are really doing when we settle on a particular opinion about man made climate change. Since we are not basing our opinions on the actual production and evaluation of the data, what are we basing it on?
The answer is trust. We are deciding to trust certain far removed professional institutions and the various forms of media that filter their proclamations down to us. There is nothing particularly wrong with doing this. In fact, it is the only means we have for engaging with the complexities of the larger world beyond our immediate experience. But it isn’t science.
Too often people pretend that the act of choosing to trust an institution is the same thing as as being knowledgeable about the phenomenon of planetary climate change itself. Even worse, it often imbues people with an unearned sense of intellectual and even moral validation.
If on the other hand it was explicitly clear to everyone that the only issue we are grappling with when it comes to climate change is whether or not the institutions and media who promote the premise are deserving of our trust, then the debate would be much different than the one we tend to see. Rather than supporters hurling the pejorative ‘denier‘ at people who refused to ‘acknowledge’ what they personally ‘know’ to be an incontestable fact, they would be obliged to ask, ‘What cause do you have for not choosing to trust these institutions?’
A humility in the face of our collective ignorance about the physics of atmospheric CO2 concentration is immediately imposed on everyone. Instead of arguing about the arcane proclamations of a distant, unquestionable professional scientific class – we are forced to justify and take responsibility for the quality of our own skills for critically assessing the arguments.
Could man made CO2 emissions be driving planetary climate change in a way that proves to be catastrophic? I guess so. All I know for sure is that unlike what we have been encouraged to believe, there are many highly credentialled, professional scientists who are recognized authorities in their fields presenting reasonable, rational, demonstrable criticisms of the means, methods, conclusions and politics of the climate change establishment. Anyone who looks into it finds the same thing. But like the rest of the 99.999% of the population, I have no freakin’ idea who is right and I’m not qualified to say anything definitive about it.
But I am qualified to critically assess the intellectual integrity, logic and ethical validity of influential institutions that insist we believe there is no valid criticism of their work while encouraging the denigration and demonization of anyone who dares challenge the absolutism of their authority. And so are you.
Is this tactic of immunizing themselves from criticism a factor in my judgement of their trustworthiness?
You’re damn right it is.
As always, feel free to leave a comment below!