Never mind the facts, do something!

It’s not that we didn’t need scientific research into climate change, or that we don’t need plenty more of it. Or even that we don’t need to do a better job of explaining basic science to people, across the board (hello, Covid). But at this moment, “believe science” is too high a bar for something that demands urgent action. Believing science requires understanding it in the first place. In the US, the world’s second biggest carbon polluter, fewer than 40% of the population are college educated and in many states, schools in the public system don’t have climate science on the curriculum. So where should this belief – strong enough to push for large-scale social and behavioural change – be rooted exactly?

People don’t need to know anything at all about climate science to know that a profound injustice has occurred here that needs to be righted. It’s not a scientific story, it’s a story of fairness: people with more power and money than you used information about climate change to shore up their own prospects and told you not to worry about it.

The people who don’t know about it being easier to push into doing something stupid about it of course.

Climate crisis is not a scientific or technical problem, it is an issue of justice and political will. Acting on it calls into question not just our energy source, but our power structures, catalysing widespread social change. The only thing that’s ever really succeeded in doing that are justice movements – public outcries over blatant injustice and a demand for change. If progressives and climate activists want to have any hope of spurring the kind of movement necessary to shift political and economic interests away from fossil fuels, it’s time to put aside “believe science” and instead embrace a broad fight for justice.

Amy Westervelt is a climate journalist

This is what passes for journalism these days…..

16 thoughts on “Never mind the facts, do something!”

  1. “Believing science requires understanding it in the first place.”

    Not only is this not true, it is the precise opposite of the truth. People who don’t understand science believe stuff because a scientist said it. People who do understand science require the scientist, no matter how eminent he is claimed to be, to provide credible evidence that what he is saying is correct. He also needs to competently answer the objections of his critics. Calling them deniers and then refusing to talk to them doesn’t cut it.

  2. I think that even “belief” is too sophisticated a term for what we are experiencing. Most people who sound off about climate change have allegiance rather than belief.

    My climate change scepticism is not about the science. It is scepticism that the middle-class busybodies I meet actually believe what they say they do. None of them have ripped out their gas boilers, all drive ICE cars, most fly, none of them support political terrorism in pursuit of the most important goal ever known to mankind, nor – faced with imminent global destruction – run naked and wailing through the streets.

  3. She misunderstands that purely political stupidity (no blacks at this water fountain, taxation without representation, etc) can indeed be righted by people power, but that physics isn’t going to listen. Her mistake is in believing the gummint can fix everything if they just have the right policies.

  4. ARRRGHH!!!!!!!

    Science is the complete utter *ANTITHESISYS* of belief.

    If it’s something you beleive it’s *NOT* science.
    Science is what happens REGARDLESS of what you believe.

  5. One easy step to understanding the ‘science’ – make every paper published also make available the data source(s) and all assumptions made. People should be able to download it all and recreate it.

    Yes, pre-Christmas Covid model intended to stampede the government into lockdown, I’m looking at you.

    If you can download and inspect them, though, you’ll quickly realise that they are utter bollocks.

  6. ‘ It’s not that we didn’t need scientific research into climate change, or that we don’t need plenty more of it. ’

    We didn’t. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. Polar, temperate, tropical, subtropical, Ice Ages.

    Climate ‘change’ has been observed and well understood for hundreds of thousands of years, and Mankind, other animals and plants have lived and thrived during its extremes.

  7. Now, now, children.

    Science is an approach to understanding what goes on. What goes on (in much of the universe) isn’t much affected by what people believe, but it is when you’re talking about people. People can sell you stuff, shoot you, run you over with a car, paint your house – all sorts of things which are or can be affected by the various individuals beliefs

    It is true that science relies on a belief – that there is an underlying pattern to the universe’s basic functionings, and that that pattern can be discovered by ‘observation’ and – very importantly – that successively more of that underlying pattern can be modeled using mathematics. Then one can do useful things, like build transistors, and make predictions about what happens.

    However, it is also the case that global ‘weather’ is a very complex system which is not yet completely understood. Thus predicting its behaviour in the short term is unreliable. We can predict as much as we like; but the predicted results will differ from the observed. Whether this matters or not is a separate issue – we may be better off using very broad simple models (“it’ll be colder tonight than it was in the daytime” sort of stuff works pretty well a lot of the time)

    And climate is even worse. We don’t even know all the mechanisms at play. We *know* we don’t know because independent climate models give differing results.

    So yes, science is a belief system. The belief is that there is an underlying pattern, which we can discover and then model using mathematics to a very useful degree of accuracy, and using the models make usefully-accurate predictions about things, and assign error limits to our predictions.

    The idiot journalist, however, appears to know nothing about all this. Even the simplest of souls should be able to reason through the “climate models all give different results and so at most one is correct, but probably all are wrong to an extent we cannot determine” point. Plus the lack of error bars should be another broad hint that the things are useless.

    Given that, shouting that The Evil Few have Taken Stuff from you Because I believe climate change is Bad and so we must Overthrow The Bad People is…. stupid.

    And even in her zeal for ‘revolution’ – for that’s what she’s calling for – she seems to have forgotten that after the revolution, it’s not the pure of heart who are in power. It’s the ruthless killers.

    I think that the Very Best Thing that could happen to Society is that things like the Guardian (and the Torygraph and HuffPo and the NYT and BBC News…) get published 100 times less frequently with total output of each edition limited to 10 pages (historically speaking). Then there wouldn’t be the same insane rush to get something, anything, published to fill the space, and we might get better stuff, better done.

    Yeah, right.

  8. Isn’t this just someone rationalising why they can’t do their job properly and blaming everyone else, can’t sell it as a science issue so make it a ‘justice’ issue so your pointless social studies degree counts as a qualification. Purely a piece of grift

  9. fewer than 40% of the population are college educated and in many states, schools in the public system don’t have climate science on the curriculum

    What does college education have to do with anything? They’re not going to teach climate science on an English Lit course, nor most others. Especially not with paying customers.

    Then again, they have plenty of racial virtue signalling at US colleges; why not climate too?

  10. At the best of times about 5% of the population of a Western Society has had the necessary background in maths, physics, and geography to have a proper understanding of the models used in Climate Science.
    It’s funny how most of those people call Bullshyte!! when they look into them.

    And Science is never “settled”. Anyone who claims thus just invalidates him/herself as an actual scientist.
    Especially with something like Climate Science. It has Quantum, Assumptions, and Simplifications at every level you look at. And the amount of variables involved is simply staggering. Schrödinger’s Cat level.
    Unless your meal ticket depends on it, no one scientist would ever claim any accuracy from the stuff we’ve got so far.

  11. What %age of jobs need a “college education” (housewife is the largest single %age of jobs)?
    OTOH, what %age of jobs are done better by an honest person? Rather higher, IMHO.
    Secondly, would it help if she knew what the word “justice” actually meant?

  12. Journalist who cannot be bothered to improve the arguments presented, calls for people to do what she demands for “the science” without justifying it with real science.

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