Derek Larson: I vote for science

I vote for science

While I mostly applaud Don Rogers’ attempts at a balanced approach in his opinion piece, “Global warming’s hot air,” I also need to challenge him on a few of his points.

Rogers makes an extremely misleading claim that “volcanic activity in the deep past dwarfs our onslaught of fossil fuel exhaust through the industrial age.” This is true only if you consider volcanic output over millions of years. His statement distracts from the key point that human activity has boosted CO2 content in the atmosphere much, much faster than any “natural” or cyclic events we know of in Earth history.

Rogers seems to be fine with the science that has pieced together what happened in the past, but he resists the same method when it projects what is likely to happen in the future. This misses the point that the greatest value in science lies in its ability to predict and warn us of potentially dangerous consequences. The process did a pretty good job of warning us about CFCs and the ozone layer.

I commend Rogers for trying to be balanced and I “get” his point that cries of gloom and doom are not helpful. But I diverge from his assessment that “scientism” is a big problem. Far more dangerous is the growing culture of anti-scientism, wherein we can go online to cherry pick any baseless blog post that confirms our world view. Regarding climate, many of these blogs come from a highly organized misinformation campaign funded by the fossil fuel industry.

To give one example, a well-educated person I know just passed me a “scientific article” claiming that climate science is bogus because oil is not a fossil fuel. The article said that oil is formed quickly and is therefore a “renewable resource.” If bloggers can keep us arguing over nonsense like this, then what hope do we have for public support of a rigorous scientific method?

I appreciate Rogers’ intention that we should all think and question and not blindly go along with group trends. But please consider how much work the process of science involves. Then compare that with the ease of putting an opinion piece up on the web. If we are going to line up behind anything right now, I vote for science.

Derek Larson is a Truckee resident and adjunct professor at Sierra College. He teaches a course called “Energy, Environment, and Climate.”

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