We seem to have ended up in odd place regarding the debate about Climate Change.
It appears that the majority of scientists that work in the field of climate say that the climate is changing and that there is a large anthropogenic component to this change caused by greenhouse gases emitted by human activity.
There are however a significant minority of scientists and others who think that either the whole thing is overblown and/or that there is either no, or very little evidence that humans have contributed to this.
Both sides have lots and lots of data to back up their assertions. And it seems to me that often these data contradict each other even when they seem to be talking about the same thing. For example I often see seemingly authoritative statements that several of the hottest years on record have occurred in the last couple of decades. But then there are articles like this one from James Delingpole in the Daily Mail that claims there is evidence from the Met Office that there has been no warming for 15 years. Both of these cannot be true.
There is then the political dimension.
Broadly speaking those on the left and liberal wings of politics tend to believe that Climate Change is real, man-made and a serious threat. Broadly speaking those on the right think either it's not that serious a problem or in some cases that the whole idea is a left wing conspiracy. I'm talking about grass roots and activists here by the way. The leaderships of all the main political parties are broadly in agreement that there is a problem and it needs to be tackled.
Now I understand this is a highly complex issue. The ecosystem of the entire planet is not something that can be easily understood. But the point of science is to run experiments and tests to try and find the truth. However difficult this is, it is made much harder if views on the potential reality of the situation are informed by ideology.
But that is what appears to be happening. As far as I can tell, the left wing seems to be happy with the fact that the solutions to the problem are essentially collecitivist in nature. We all need to stop using as much energy, use renewables more locally, share resources more, restrict what business can do for the good of the planet etc. And the right are deeply unhappy with most of these solutions. So they question the fundamental nature of the premise and conclude that it is a stitch up.
I am a Lib Dem. I run a business that deals with energy efficiency in buildings. I basically believe from what I have seen that mankind has contributed to this problem and that we need to do something about the problem.
But am I being hoodwinked? There are millions of people who think I am.
At core I am a rationalist and I also have a strong skeptic streak. I am certainly open to the possibility that I am wrong about this. If the scientific consensus started to shift based on the evidence I would certainly consider doing so.
The problem is that is not happening. Instead views are polarising. Terms like "Climate Change Denier" and "Leftie Conspiracy" are tossed around like confetti. Both sides seem unwilling or unable to really listen to the other. I strongly suspect there is a large element of confirmation bias going on at the very least in the political arena. Those who want to believe it find the evidence that backs them up. Those that don't want to believe find evidence of the opposite.
Maybe that is the way it has to be. I tried engaging with James Delingpole on Twitter this morning after he tweeted a link to the above article. I was interested in his response to a question I had about how he responded to a broader question about scientific evidence relating to medicine on a BBC programme a while back. I tweeted:
@JamesDelingpole When you were asked about adherence to science in the context of if you were ill on that programme you didn't seem...
@JamesDelingpole ..to have a very convincing answer. Why do you trust it for your health but not for this?
His response was:
@MarkReckons Lib Dim activist asks straw man question about parti pris, scientifically inaccurate BBC propagandist stitch up?
Maybe I was a bit too confrontational in the way I asked the question but I am genuinely curious about how someone would happily accept the scientific consensus when it came to say treating them if they had cancer but be utterly convinced it's wrong and a conspiracy when it comes to the climate.
Like I say, it seems to be very difficult to engage in a debate that does not quickly degenerate into ad hominem attacks.
So is Climate Change really happening? Or am I falling for a socialist conspiracy designed to take us all back to the dark ages?