OP/ED: Reasoned Reflections On Mr. Rubio’s “Reasonable Debate”

Here is another example of what seems to be the big fight. Conservatives who believe climate change is a hoax and liberals who accept the claims of climate scientists and want to make changes.

There’s no doubt big money is on both sides pushing agendas, but what about those people who may have no political agendas.

I believe these are the scientists. Most people get into a field like science because they believe in something, the facts. If I can assume something, I assume that scientists love the scientific method.  And without getting into too many boring details, that method is about results that they can prove.  If they can’t prove their theory with the results of the experiment, they either change the theory or change the experiment.

In the end, something is proven as a fact, or at least as close as they can get to a fact, when the theory and the results of the experiment actually match.

It seems that no matter how many ways they look at climate change, “97 percent of American scientists say that climate change is happening” (NPR Article – “Climate Change: Public Skeptical, Scientists Sure). Ninety-seven percent!  That is a big number.

In that article they talk with representatives from the National Academy of Sciences whose own findings are posted on their website in a report called “America’s Climate Choices” that was presented in 2011. In the opening the report a statement is made that “Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by human activities, and poses significant risks to humans and the environment. These risks indicate a pressing need for substantial action to limit the magnitude of climate change and to prepare for adapting to its impacts.”(National Academy of Sciences, Americas Climate Choices 2011)

Even sites like Wikipedia, where it seems that the public likes to garner much of its information, agree with the scientists: “The scientific opinion on climate change is that the Earth’s climate system is unequivocally warming, and it is more than 90% certain that humans are causing it through activities that increase concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as deforestation and burning fossil fuels.” (Wikipedia Article, Scientific Opinion on Climate Change)

Climate Summit CartoonThat opening statement alone is cited with four links to scientific research. The point of what I’m writing isn’t to convince people that climate change is real, it is to question why politicians such as Marco Rubio in his critique of the President’s State of the Union address can continue to say things like “I know people said there’s a significant scientific consensus on [human-caused climate change], but I’ve actually seen reasonable debate on that principle.” ( Think Progress Article, State Of Denial: More Dirty Energy Policies Expected From Koch-Fueled Marco Rubio)

What is reasonable about disagreeing with ninety-seven percent? If ninety-seven percent of my friends want to go to this bar and three percent want to go to that bar, guess who is probably going to win?  In politics, if ninety-seven percent of the electorate voted for politician A and only three percent voted for politician B, would there be any question or dispute? If ninety-seven percent of the doctors you saw offered you one treatment, but three percent offered you another, what would you do?  I could keep going, but I think you get the point.

Yet time and time again people cling to the idea that ninety-seven percent of the scientific community is trying to pull the wool over our eyes, and for what? So that we can treat the earth better?  So that whole species of plants and animals won’t die out because of habitat loss?  So we can breathe cleaner air and drink cleaner water?  How dare they!

What I want to urge people to do is use common sense. When did the scientific community become the enemy and politicians become our saviors? I don’t want to blindly follow anyone.  I have been taught to analyze the facts, weigh out the data, and to trust in the results of my research, not just what I want to be true. If there is an area in which I do not have the expertise I look to those who do and believe that they have done the same.

It is about trust. If the scientific community was divided, let’s say fifty/fifty, or even sixty/forty, I could see some justified skepticism.  And these are just American scientists. I challenge you to look into other countries around the world and their scientific research and see what they have come up with. I doubt you’ll find nearly as much skepticism as you do here in the U.S.

And, one last thought – what if they are wrong about climate change?  What if it is a big hoax, or the data is wrong, what have you?  My background is in religious studies, so I present you with a sort of Pascal’s wager.  If ninety-seven percent of climate change scientists are wrong, and we ignore their suggestions for change, then nothing bad will happen, humanity will go on and our children’s children will enjoy a beautiful earth and a hopeful future.

But if they are right, and we do nothing, then the future is very bleak indeed. However, if we act now, whether or not ninety-seven percent of the American scientific community is right, what do we stand to lose or gain?  I’ll leave you with this question and let you decide for yourself.

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About the Author

Chris Seitz is a recent USF graduate with a BA in Religious Studies and a free-lance environmental commentator. He has lived in the Tampa Bay Area for the last 16 years and has a passion for social and environmental justice.[/note]


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