Dr. Weaver is lecturing at the University of Victoria for the next two weeks in a climate change and society environmental studies course. He exudes passion like you wouldn’t believe and has not let the wear of politics affect his sense of humour.
He displayed the most recent (2008-2012) public opinion polls on climate change. 26% of Americans and 14% of Canadians do not believe in the existence of global warming. This clearly infused an eagerness in Dr. Weaver and he flared up a little. He laughed, frantically gestured, and said
‘This question wasn’t asking are humans causing this? it was simply do you believe it! This is like asking do you believe in thermometers!!’
Scientists have done their part. Research persists and climate models increase in accuracy with time but results are conclusive. The fact that climatic temperatures are rising is no longer contested, it is known. Human contribution to global temperature changes is a whole other, much more complicated topic but the fact that 14% of Canadians (or 5 million people: roughly the population of Norway!) are so against the concept of climate change that they don’t believe in thermometer readings shows that global warming is now a matter of politics, not science.
Dr. Weaver discussed two very interesting publications to emphasize the problem:
1. (Boycoff, 2004) investigated a random sample of 636 articles containing the word ‘global warming’ to investigate how the media portrays this issue. 53% of articles placed equal blame on natural cycles and human activity. Boycoff concludes that media in the U.S ‘has contributed to a significant divergence of popular discourse from scientific discourse’. Meaning that by trying to remain unbiased by reporting that global warming is occurring half the time, and that it is a natural cycle the other half, this leads the public to believe that scientists are still 50/50 on this issue, they are undecided and unsure. This becomes even more interesting when one considers the article below.
2. (Oreskis, 2004) investigated 928 published, peer reviewed, scientific articles to see if climate scientists really are uncertain about this issue. Results: Not a single scientist actually argues that humans are not contributing greenhouse gases that result in climate change. A similar study by Anderegg 2010 looking at 1372 acclaimed climate scientists and their publications revealed similar results as Oreski’s, concluding that 97-98% support guidelines outlined by the IPCC, who’s most recent publication quotes ‘ emissions of greenhouse gases are chiefly responsible for global warming’ and ‘science has spoken, and time is not on our side’.
The media is introducing a bias by portraying a 50/50 perspective while 97-100% of acclaimed climate scientists unequivocally report that global warming is occurring. This is a matter of alternate motives of advertisers and governments affecting public opinion. It is ineffectively communicated science or, more accurately, suppressed science (especially if you are discussing our situation in Canada).
‘We need evidence-based decision making, not decision based evidence making’ said Dr. Weaver.
We must believe in science, not the media, and certainly not what our current government is trying to portray. Theres a whole book on this if you want to learn more, I’m reading it for another class of mine, its called ‘ The war on Science: Muzzled Scientists and wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper’s Canada‘. If your still unsure, get your facts straight. Believe in thermometers!