Monbiot: All out war on science

The Guardian’s George Monbiot has a thoughtful column this week about the attacks on climate science and how they have widened to take aim at science in general.

The last sentence of his column would seem to aptly sum up the state of public opinion on climate change:

The battle over climate change suggests that the more clearly you spell the problem out, the more you turn people away. If they don’t want to know, nothing and no one will reach them. There goes my life’s work.

This week at the Science Media Centre we featured a panel of scientists talking about this exact issue – climate change fatigue and why the public has grown tired of hearing about the potentially devastating impacts of climate change. What’s their solution? Science, they say, needs to change so that the social element of climate change is better accounted for when the biophysical aspects of the science are discussed.

Sciblogger and climate scientist, Dr Andy Reisinger summed it up well in the local context at a Science Techology and Society (STS) here in Wellington earlier in the week. He said that there is actually precious little research completed to date that looks at potential scenarios for climate change mitigation and adapation in New Zealand beyond 2025. We’ve become so wrapped up in what the climate science is suggesting will happen and trying to gauge the robustness of the science that we haven’t done enough to suggest exactly how these ominous scenarios will actually impact on people.

Businesses such as Zespri are becoming more interested in this as they plan for more sustainable development over the long-term. But business, government and science need to put more emphasis on the social element of climate change scenarios if there is to be the social change that will allow us to tackle climate change.

On the subject of climate change adapation, this Climate Change Research Institute lecture may be of interest to Wellington readers…


NZCCRI Seminar Series 2010:

Fractured Science and the Politics of Climate Change
Dr. Barry Smit
Professor of Geography
Canada Research Chair in Global Environmental Change
University of Guelph

Friday 19th of March 2010, 12:15 to 1:15pm
Old Government Buildings Lecture Theatre 2, Victoria University.

This presentation addresses the physical and human forces underlying
climate change and its implications for the environment and development.
The roles of science and politics in national and international policy
responses are outlined – mitigation and adaptation. Examples are given of
adaptation initiatives in regions ranging from the Arctic to Bangladesh
and Nigeria to Chile. The needs and opportunities for truly
interdisciplinary science and practice are presented.

Barry Smit is internationally recognized for his work on climate change
impacts and adaptation. He is a scientist-practitioner whose
interdisciplinary research explores the relationships between
socio-economic systems and physical-biological systems. His work has been
applied in Bangladesh, Vietnam, Samoa, Fiji, Chile, Ghana, Uganda and the
Arctic. He has advised governments and organizations across Canada and
internationally. He has served on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC), and is a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

This presentation is sponsored by the Association for Canadian Studies in
Australia and New Zealand (ACSANZ) and the Government of Canada.

No RSVP is required.

One Comment

  1. drmike

    I think one of the problems with the climate change debate is that it is not being treated as a scientific debate (i.e. seeking the truth), but rather as a debate in the style of politics or courtrooms – an adversarial approach where opponents want to win and they will use methods inappropriate to a scientific debate – rhetoric, manipulation etc.
    For example, I find it extremely frustrating when opponents of AGW use the “carbon dioxide isn’t toxic argument”. This is especially aggravating when it comes from those who should know better (those with PhD and who are self proclaimed climate change consultants.
    Even those who believe in AGW can make poor scientific arguments e.g. polar bears dying out etc
    If we could just get back to the verifiable science and leave all the other crap behind we would be much better off.

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