For better or worse, I have spent quite a bit of time arguing with “humans are causing global warming and it’s a bad thing” deniers/skeptics on the internet. I don’t expect I will ever change their minds, in fact I am increasingly sure that I can’t change their minds, but it’s interesting to have a discussion and see where their objections lie. Then I know more for the next one I meet, and I might be able to convince a couple more observers, who I think are the main candidates for having their minds changed.
For the record, I accept that human emissions of CO2 are changing the climate and that this is a bad thing. I don’t ‘believe’ this. You don’t need to believe in things that can be measured.
Something interesting has emerged from these discussions: I think I have found the denier’s kyptonite.
In all of these discussions, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating to suggest there have been more than a hundred, none of them have even offered a sliver of an answer to the following question:
If the globe was warming due to human actions, what would evidence of it look like?
No one has ever attempted to answer this question. Some have said “well I can tell you what it doesn’t look like” and “the world hasn’t warmed in 15 years” but never has there been an honest attempt to describe something which constitutes evidence that humans are causing the climate to change.
It is incredible that people so well versed in science that they can disregard the vast bulk of scientific work on a topic can’t answer this question. They can describe in great detail why any given piece of evidence isn’t evidence of climate change, but not what would be. This is the very essence of both science and skepticism; once you know a theory you know what will break it and you look for it, constantly.
I am not overly surprised, the skeptics I have debated don’t usually answer any questions at all. I suspect this is because on some level they know that once they offer a position on something they can be disproven, and that’s dangerous territory. Much better to make wild accusations and ask questions, and then you can never be wrong.
I’m not sure what to do with this information; it’s not going to change the politics or the difficulty of achieving global agreement on emissions limits. But I think it indicates a strategy. What if rather than people like Andrew Bolt getting away with nonsense such as “the world hasn’t warmed in 15 years” someone replied with “great point Andrew. You seem to know an awful lot about global warming, what do you think evidence supporting the theory would look like if it were occurring?”
Let’s start asking, not answering, questions from the skeptics among us. They know SO MUCH, and we should try and learn from them.
Assuming of course they have anything to offer.