Why is it that conspiracy theories are almost always regarded as idiotic, paranoid fantasies imagined by those hopelessly out-of-touch with reality and unworthy of serious debate...until right-wing America starts talking about global climate change?
That must certainly be on the mind of Michael Mann, the climate scientist who became famous in 2001 for his "hockey stick" graph that showed 900 years of relatively stable temperatures veering sharply higher in the 20th century. His new book, "The Hockey Stick And The Climate Wars: Dispatches From The Front Lines" addresses the overwhelming consensus among climate scientist the world over, and the record breaking heat that we have experienced over the last 30 years. The topic that once made Mann a household name is now conspicuously absent from the national conversation in a Presidential election year.
President Barack Obama embarked on a cross-country energy tour touting his energy strategy, but he never once mentioned global climate change, the single greatest consequence of America's reliance on oil and gas. He hasn't been the only one curiously silent on the issue. Before running for president, Newt Gingrich said the U.S. government should step up its efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. In 2008, he appeared with Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who at the time was speaker of the House, in a TV ad to support a global-warming awareness campaign headed by former Vice President Al Gore.
Mann's temperature graph was cited in the 2001 United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) seminal report, which concluded that "the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on the global climate." His research would later make him the target of the infamous "climategate" email scandal of 2009, in which emails were leaked from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the UK and used by climate deniers to FALSELY allege that scientists had manipulated data.
The IPCC report called on the world's leading industrial nations (especially the U.S. and China) to curb greenhouse gas emissions now, while something can still be done. Soon thereafter, all the "junk-science" detectors came out of the woodwork to warn all of us poor idiots to beware of the "global warming conspiracy."
Like Bertrand Russell said, "Clearly, if you are going to believe anything outside your own experience, you should have some reason for believing it. Usually, the reason is authority. It is true that most of us must inevitably depend upon authority for most of our knowledge."
As a retired career employee of KY Environmental Protection, who has followed the debate of this issue for 30 years, I know that the IPCC is the most authoritative body of climate scientists in the world, whose work is peer reviewed. This is in sharp contrast to the mutterings of non-scientist ideologues who dismiss the work of real scientists who, we're told, secretly want to destroy capitalism, halt technological progress and keep the poor, poor. The relative merits of peer-reviewed publications compared to non-scientist's whimsical fancies cannot be overstated.
Whenever someone is debunking global warming or saying that it is not due to anthropogenic (human) effects, you should say to them "that's an interesting theory, try publishing it". That is because it will never get published. The debate on whether global climate change is due to anthropogenic effects is over really. The most important things left to discuss are what are we are going to do about it and when...but nobody is talking!
Let me give the non-scientific community the "low down" on scientific publications. Before a publication is peer reviewed by the journal it is often internally reviewed by the university or entity that is releasing it because they want to protect the reputation of the institution and do not want to be laughed off as incompetent baffoons. Next the journal sends the article to at least three independent experts for review, most likely by people who are recently published on a similar topic. In addition, the journal internally reviews the article.
After the Article is published, it is open to full review by it's readers. Most journals have sections where they post reader's comments on articles previously published. The peer review process is rigid and allows scientists to discuss facts and theories rather than opinions and biased judgement.
There was a study published in Science magazine that revealed that out of 900 randomly selected peer reviewed articles about global warming, NONE disputed global warming or that it was caused by anthropogenic effects. When that many scientists can agree - a bunch that so rarely will form a true consensus on anything related to their work - then you know that something important is up!
On the contrary, approximately 50% of news media articles do dispute the science of global warming. There is no wonder why some folks are still believing that the debate continues. To better understand why the media does this, one only has to follow the money.
I recommend folks watch "An Inconvenient Truth", a 2 hour documentary that explains the scientific consensus on global warming in terms that the layman can understand. I also recommend Michael Mann's book. You owe it to your future generations.