A Climate Skeptic’s Conversion

Here’s a good piece at The Times Online by Bryan Appleyard, explaining how he changed from climate skeptic/denier to accepter of the scientific evidence for global warming: Global warming is real.

No wonder opinion polls show a majority of the population are sceptical about global warming. Just scanning the papers, the internet or watching TV is enough to convince anyone it’s just the usual apocalyptic hype. And, if they want to dig deeper into their own disbelief, there are shelfloads of books to give them a hand. There’s Nigel Lawson, ex-chancellor of the exchequer, with An Appeal to Reason. There’s Scared to Death by Christopher Booker and Richard North. There’s Cool It by Bjorn Lomborg. There was even a very serious documentary on Channel 4 called The Great Global Warming Swindle with some serious-looking science guys pouring cold water on the warming atmosphere.

Just a couple of weeks reading and watching and you can be out there, crushing dinner-party eco-warriors with devastating arguments based on cold, hard facts. You will be a stern, hard-headed denialist, your iron jaw set firmly against the tree-hugging, soft-headed warmists in their irritating hats.

That was me, once. I thought global warming was all bog-standard, apocalyptic nonsense when it first emerged in the 1980s. People, I knew, like nothing better than an End-of-the-World story to give their lives meaning. I also knew that science is dynamic. Big ideas rise and fall. Once the Earth was the centre of the universe. Then it wasn’t. Once Isaac Newton had completed physics. Then he hadn’t. Once there was going to be a new ice age. Then there wasn’t.

Armed with such historic reversals, I poured scorn on under-educated warmists. Scientists with access to the microphone, I pointed out, had got so much so wrong so often. This was yet another case of clever people, who should have known better, running around screaming, “End of the World! End of the World!” and of less-clever people finding reasons to tell everybody else why they were bad. And then I made a terrible mistake. I started questioning my instinct, which was to disbelieve every scare story on principle.

I exposed myself to any journalist’s worst nightmare — very thoughtful, intelligent people.

Thus began Appleyard’s conversion. And the process Appleyard describes is very similar to my own rethinking of the subject.

I was also a “skeptic” for a long time, although that word implies a reasoned opposition that really wasn’t the case. In truth, I had been fooled by the massive amount of anti-AGW propaganda being fed into the national debate by right wing groups. Almost two years ago, I began detecting a distinct fishy odor, when I read articles debunking the British documentary “The Great Global Warming Swindle,” pointing out the numerous errors and deliberate deceptions in the film. And since it was clear that the issue was going to be a serious point of contention in the US I made a determined effort to educate myself. Instead of getting all my information from “skeptical” blogs and news sources, I started reading books and scientific journals and everything else I could get my hands on. I’m kind of obsessive when I get interested in a subject. (OK, not “kind of” — “definitely.”)

At some point during that process I began to realize that I couldn’t deny any longer, and that my opinion had changed from unreasoning “skepticism” to acceptance of the scientific evidence. I didn’t go into this expecting to come out as a proponent of AGW, but the vast weight of the evidence forced me to accept it.

The kinds of policies that need to be implemented to stave off the danger are another matter; my main focus right now is providing as much factual information as possible to try to get past the first hurdle — the huge, ongoing campaign of disinformation and denial.

Read the whole thing…

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