Climate Change Skepticism

On a recent episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, there was a guest who was skeptical about the claim that human activity was affecting the climate. His response to the vast consensus in the scientific community was, “Well, we still don’t know for sure, and we shouldn’t disregard the small minority because leaps in science are made by people who go against common belief.” This is a common response given by climate change skeptics and I do think there is truth to this reasoning. Now, regardless of what I believe, there is an interesting thing that climate skeptics should keep in mind, and it is this: if the vast consensus of experts of a field X is insufficient to convince one of a truth claim that is X-related, then there is little that one should believe.

To be clear, I have done my own research to find out how vast this scientific consensus is, and the number that I found was 97%—that is 97% of climatologists agree that climate change is partly anthropocentric. Now if 97% consensus is insufficient to convince someone, then those unconvinced should be skeptical of the vast majority of truth claims out there, since few truth claims can be supported by such a consensus. I mention this with the intention of pointing out that most people who are skeptical of climate change are not equally skeptical about other issues, even though they should be if the threshold to believe in something is higher than 97% consensus. Having said that, I do think there is such a thing as reasonable disagreement with a vast consensus, but I believe that that disagreement must be the result of an informed process. I think you can reasonably disagree with anthropogenic climate change if you are a climatologist (or at least someone who has the knowledge of a climatologist).

In defense of their skepticism, climate change skeptics claim that the field of climatology has been corrupted in such a way that climatologists who disagree with the majority are somehow discriminated against. If this claim is true—and it might be for all I know—it would give a reason to be skeptical of the consensus. However, what is important to keep in mind is that the claim that the field of climatology has been corrupted is another truth claim in itself. And in response to this claim, I would ask the following question: “What convinced you that the field of climatology has been corrupted so much so that it discounts the consensus?” I doubt climate change skeptics would be able to give a criteria that would both justify their belief in the corruption of the field and discount the trustworthiness of the consensus.